Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Tony Brown opens up on ‘amazing’ Bok midfield pairing of De Allende, Kriel

The centres will set a new partnership record in the second Test against Ireland this weekend.

Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel could be the future of the Springboks‘ midfield as they head towards the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, with them set to bring up a significant milestone against Ireland this weekend.

Kriel and De Allende will become the most capped South African centre pairing in history when they run onto the Kings Park turf on Saturday, together for the 30th time.

It will break the record that they levelled against Ireland over the past weekend of 29, that they currently share with legendary Springbok pair Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, who are arguably considered the best Bok centre pairing in history.

It is thus a significant milestone that not many would have seen coming, especially when De Allende and Lukhanyo Am were expected to be the duo to break that record after building an amazing centre partnership over the years.

Damian de Allende
Damian de Allende, with Jesse Kriel in the background, will play together in the Bok midfield for the 30th time on Saturday. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

De Allende and Kriel in midfield

However, it is now De Allende and Kriel who will do it and they showed just how valuable they are with an action packed showing against Ireland at Loftus in the first Test, with Kriel being named man-of-the-match and De Allende powering the Boks’ midfield with massive runs.

New Bok attack coach Tony Brown is particularly excited about the partnership and is looking forward to evolving it into the best in the world over the current World Cup cycle.

“Both are world-class players and as skilful as they are physical. It is pretty amazing that they are the world’s most experienced midfield combination (with 150 Test caps between them),” explained Brown.

“I always want to push the players around what they can achieve on attack and they want to soak up more knowledge.

“Jesse has worked so hard off the field to get better in every facet of the game and we saw a lot of examples of him being a dominant attacking force, whether carrying the ball or moving it with his passing game.

“Damian is such a physical guy in contact. He can offload, he can get a lot of momentum but something you do not know about him is that he is the best passer in the Springboks. I want to unlock that skill and ability and push them to be even better.”

Return of Lukhanyo Am

It will be interesting to see if the De Allende and Kriel partnership will continue to be the dominant one over the coming years, or if Am will come back with a vengeance to retake his place as the first choice outside centre.

Am is considered a maverick in terms of how he reads the game and was expected to be a permanent fixture in the Boks midfield for many years, but a slew of injuries over the past few years has seen his form dip, which allowed Kriel to stake his claim.

Although questions are still raised occasionally about him being a bit too one dimensional, Kriel has slowly turned into a more rounded player and it will be a massive challenge for Am to force himself back ahead of him in the pecking order.

“Jesse is super-fit and in rugby, if you can position yourself quickly and you see the space and opportunity, you will get the ball in your hands and that is what I am pushing all the guys to do,” added Brown.

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