Cape Town – Lukhanyo Am’s terrific offload behind his back to set up Damian de Allende’s try against the All Blacks was unforgettable, but there is one pass that the latter feels is even better: his own delivery to Makazole Mapimpi against Scotland.
De Allende and Am have formed a formidable partnership since 2018, and it seems it is at its strongest right now following another wonderful display in the 30-15 victory at Murrayfield last Saturday.
Both centres were in outstanding form, and had a hand in both Mapimpi tries. Am won the turnover for the first try, and secured a loose ball ripped by Kwagga Smith for the second, while De Allende produced quick hands for the first touchdown, but it was his contribution to the second that was really eye-catching.
All about the offload from Damian de Allende 🔥pic.twitter.com/M6d6gjWDtH— House of Rugby (@HouseOfRugby) November 13, 2021
He charged into space from a flat Elton Jantjies pass to gallop past Scotland No 12 Matt Scott and handed-off wing Rufus McLean before feeding a flying Mapimpi with one-handed offload.
Asked on Wednesday if his teammates were calling him ‘Sonny Bill’ yet, De Allende laughed: “No, not actually! No one calls anyone Sonny Bill here. But we obviously do work on our individual skills, and we try and do those passes in training.
“Lukhanyo’s one came off against New Zealand as well, which was very special. But I still think mine was a little bit better!”
For all of those box-kicks that Bok fans have had to endure this year, the two tries from turnover ball against Scotland was worth the wait, and De Allende explained that it wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment thing either.
L’OFFLOAD INCROYABLE DE LUKHANYO AM ! pic.twitter.com/rQ4tmbqCZJ— Gauthier Baudin (@GauthierBaudin) October 2, 2021
“We work quite hard in the week on creating opportunities for each other. Just on Saturday, I found myself in the right place at the right time, and it was nice to perform in that space, and create space for other people around me as well,” the Munster midfielder said.
“It has been something that I’ve worked on personally, and it’s something we’ve worked on together as a team as well, which helps a lot. The guys around you, because we worked on it together, it almost feels like they didn’t need that space and time to make those better decisions on the outside.
“I know it looks nice when it comes off, and I might get the praise now and again, but it’s also the guys that are working off the ball that make my job and decision-making a lot easier. We will carry on working hard on that as a group, and I will carry on working on that in my personal game.
“But it was nice to see that it came off this past weekend against Scotland, and hopefully we can create more opportunities for each other like that this coming weekend.”
On his burgeoning partnership with Am, De Allende said: “We just have a good feeling for each other. If he does something on the field, I’m there to back him up, and if I do something on the field, he is there to back me up. Like I said, not every game of rugby is the same, and sometimes I might make mistakes on the field, and he will be there to help me out and cover my back (and vice versa).
“Our communication on the field is exceptional, and that helps a lot. But I can’t really say why we dovetail so well together! It is awesome to play rugby like that, and that we have such a good understanding for each other.
“We’re very composed on the field, especially Lukhanyo – we chat a lot on the field, and just try and stay in the moment. Even though sometimes it doesn’t like we are in the game, (when) we find it hard to get involved – whether that’s on attack or defence – we always just talk to each other and say we must be ready for the next moment that comes.”
The 29-year-old De Allende, who hails from Milnerton and has 57 Test caps, is expected to have his hands full against England at Twickenham on Saturday, though, with Manu Tuilagi expected to slot in at No 12 in place of the injured Owen Farrell.
Tuilagi is an explosive runner who showed how effective he can be against Australia last week. Despite being picked as a right wing, he operated almost as a third centre in carrying the ball strongly in midfield.
“We don’t know what the England team is yet, but playing against Manu in the World Cup final, it was a great honour and privilege for me to… as players, no matter what position you play, you always want to test yourself against the best in the world, and I think he is right up there with the best centres in the world,” De Allende said.
“I think he will play 12 – obviously it’s unfortunate that Owen Farrell got injured last week, so no matter where he plays, I will enjoy that battle on the field. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the way he plays rugby, and it’s another challenge for me to get better, and I’m looking forward to play against him again.”