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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

De Allende excited about next midfield challenge — playing with Kriel at 13

The Boks will have a new-look centre pairing against the Pumas on Saturday, following the inclusion of Jesse Kriel at 13.

Springbok inside centre Damian de Allende considers himself lucky that he’s been blessed with excellent midfield partners during his international career.

De Allende’s career with the Boks is nearing a decade after making his debut in 2014 against Argentina in Pretoria. In this time he has won 71 Test caps and has just about made the No 12 jersey his own.

At the start of his career he was paired with former Bok captain Jean de Villiers and then he established himself alongside Jesse Kriel and most recently Lukhanyo Am.

De Allende said on Wednesday, just days out from the Boks’ final Rugby Championship clash of the year with Argentina at Ellis Park, he’s fortunate to have played next to so many great midfielders during his time in the Bok set-up.

“I’m incredibly lucky,” De Allende told the media.

“I always look forward to the challenge, whether I’m playing with Jesse or Lukhanyo, or if I have to play at 13 and Andre (Esterhuizen) has to play at 12. I think the way the four of us put each other under pressure at training, and teach each other, goes a long way.”

New partner Kriel

On Saturday De Allende will start in the midfield alongside Kriel, who’ll be playing his first Test of the season.

“I’m happy for Jesse. He was unlucky to not be up for selection against Australia because of the red card incident (during the Japan Rugby League) but he’s been doing well in training. I know he’s raring to go,” said De Allende.

The former Stormers and Munster man who now plays in Japan is backing the Bok bosses’ policy of spreading the games around the full squad to get players fit for the start of the Rugby World Cup in September.

“You can train for a year and not play rugby … the only way you can get match fit is by playing consistently,” said De Allende.

“It’s just about trying to find that balance and getting everyone enough minutes so that when we start at the World Cup we can fire, not just as individuals, but as a whole squad.”