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'Limerick feels a bit like home' - De Allende settling well with Munster

The Springbok centre is enjoying his new partnership with Chris Farrell.

MANY OF MUNSTER’S new players settle down in the Castletroy or Annacotty areas near the province’s training base in the University of Limerick, but Damian de Allende has opted to base himself a little closer to the heart of the city.

The Springbok had to complete an isolation period in a Limerick hotel when he landed in, of course, but then got set up with a place close to Thomond Park.

He’s been visiting the Milk Market and getting to know the city as much as the current restrictions have allowed, and is already starting to feel at home.

damian-de-allende De Allende is settling into life in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Being in the thick of things suits the 28-year-old, who has been joined in Ireland by his girlfriend, Domenica, a fellow Cape Town native.

“I think it has been quite easy for myself and my girlfriend,” says World Cup winner de Allende of settling in. “Where we come from in Cape Town, it’s quite community-based.

“Although she stays on the other side of Cape Town from where I’m from, I’m still very good friends with guys who I’ve grown up with. It feels a bit like home here in Limerick where everything is so small and compact. Everyone has a better idea of everyone else.”

De Allende appreciates how everything in Limerick is close, so even though he’s not living in exactly the same area of the city as some his team-mates, he’s seeing a fair bit of them as he builds new relationships off the pitch as well as on it.

“It’s made me settle down and be relaxed and be myself. I think once you are yourself in a new team environment, that’s when you can just start enjoying yourself and enjoying your rugby on the field.”

While Limerick already feels a little familiar to de Allende in a non-rugby sense, he sees similarities to his former club in South Africa too.

“Limerick reminds me a bit of home,” he says as he explains why Munster was the right choice for him. “Just watching Munster on TV and watching Thomond Park reminds me of Cape Town and the Stormers.

“Over the past couple of years, I was with the Stormers and it hadn’t been doing well as a franchise. We weren’t getting the support that we usually get.

“When I watched Munster on TV, just to see the supporters being so close to the field…. the Irish fans, especially here in Limerick and in Munster, they can actually see that you left it all out on the park.

damian-de-allende-and-bundee-aki De Allende and Bundee Aki after last weekend's clash with Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I think when they see that, that’s what they appreciate the most. So, I’m really looking forward to playing in Thomond Park.

“The next time we play, it might still be empty, but I’m really looking forward to a sold-out Thomond Park and just meeting some fans after the game and trying to feed off their energy.”

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De Allende arrived in Munster after a season in Japanese club rugby with the Panasonic Wild Knights, where there was the option of a second year in his contract that he might have taken up but for Johann Van Graan convincing him to come to Ireland.

The Munster boss contacted de Allende’s agent during last year’s Rugby Championship, checking if the Springboks centre would be interested in joining after the World Cup.

Having already made that one-season commitment to the Wild Knights, de Allende was only free to arrive this summer but Munster have secured one of the leading centres in the sport. 

Funnily enough, de Allende says he didn’t tell ex-Munster men Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and Felix Jones about his impending move during the World Cup, keen as he was to keep things under wraps because he had yet to even play for Panasonic. 

De Allende’s first two appearances for the province in recent weeks have been strong and he has combined well with Chris Farrell in Munster’s midfield.

“I won’t say we’re on the same page 100% of the time,” says de Allende with a smile. “I’m still trying to get to know the calls a bit better, trying to get to know our structures a bit better, and it has been a bit better over the two weeks but I think we have a good feel for each other on the field.

“He understands when I need space and I understand when he needs space, the balance has been quite good at the moment.

damian-de-allende-is-tackled-by-josh-van-der-flier De Allende is a powerful ball carrier but also an excellent passer. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s not about me or him, it’s about what we do that benefits the team and I think the both of us understand that, although sometimes we’re going to have to sacrifice, where we might just be crash-ball runners and other times we’ll be out in space and be allowed to do all the fancy things.

“Hopefully we’ll get the balance right again on Friday night and just be a lot more consistent in that.”

Indeed, Munster will be hoping to see de Allende’s very best on the big occasion against Leinster in tomorrow night’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final at the Aviva Stadium, although the South African says van Graan isn’t piling any pressure on him.

“I’ve spoken to Johann quite a bit but it’s nothing about pressure, it’s more about enjoying myself. Obviously we won the World Cup, but that doesn’t make me a better player than the other centres that are here.

“I think the biggest thing for me is just to know how to fit into the system and then I can start maybe giving back and trying to help out but I don’t see it as… I know I’ve won a World Cup but I can’t picture myself coming in and trying to changes things to benefit me.

“I think it’s me who has to change and try and benefit into the system and then we can start working around from that.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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