De Allende and Esterhuizen Euro 'reunion' in doubt
CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: The fascinating prospect of two Springbok giants going head-to-head in the opening round of Europe’s Champions Cup is in doubt.
World Cup-winning Springbok centre Damian de Allende expressed his appetite for a ‘reunion’ with compatriot Andre Esterhuizen – when Munster host Harlequins at Thomond Park in Limerick on Sunday.
De Allende – 1.91m and 105kg – was one of the stars in South Africa’s march to a third World Cup title, when they smashed England 32-12 in the Final in Yokohama last November.
Esterhuizen – 1.96m and 115kg – missed the World Cup cut.
Sunday’s European opener would have been the two giants’ first head-to-head encounter since 2019 – when De Allende played for the Stormers and Esterhuizen for the Sharks.
However, Esterhuizen’s participation is in doubt as a result of a pending disciplinary hearing.
The Harlequins star, Esterhuizen, will each appear before an online disciplinary panel on Tuesday.
Esterhuizen was shown a red card by referee Ian Tempest in the 45th minute of the Premiership Round Three match between Gloucester and Harlequins this past Sunday – for a striking with the elbow, contrary to World Rugby Law 9.12.
The disciplinary panel will be chaired by Daniel White, with Matthew Weaver and Mitch Read as his fellow panel members.
De Allende will be waiting anxiously to hear the outcome of Esterhuizen’s disciplinary hearing.
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He said he was looking forward to meeting up with a few fellow South Africans in his first appearance in Europe’s premier club/provincial competition.
De Allende admitted he doesn’t know much about Quins.
“Playing Super Rugby against guys like André Esterhuizen and Wilco Louw [his former Stormers teammate] and [Martin] Landajo, I kind of understand what they’ll bring to the party,”De Allende said of Sunday’s fixture.
“All three of them are very good players.
“They’ve all played international rugby already.
“André is very physical and so is Wilco. Landajo has very good skill.
“They’ll bring, I think, a lot of calmness to the changing room and, looking at their squad, and seeing their big ball carriers and the big players. You know it’s probably going to be a big set-piece battle, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Munster is obviously having a great Pro14 season – unbeaten after seven matches and sitting pretty at the top of Conference B.
“I think we’re all ready to take that next step up [to the European Cup],”the Bok stalwart said.
“I think, with getting the Irish internationals back, they’ll appreciate it a lot more because there has been a lot of hard work put in.
“They will add a lot more to our squad than what we have already
“Hopefully, we can just keep the momentum going.
“We’re all just looking forward to the next challenge and we can’t wait for this next block of games to start.”
De Allende said he was watching a lot of the European Cup games back in South Africa, when playing for the Stormers last year.
He added that the importance of the European Cup is a topic that has often come up in the Munster dressing room.
“The guys speak about it a lot; even the guys coming to the academy speak about it a lot, and I think that’s something that not just the old guys want to achieve – it’s the youngsters that also want to achieve it with Munster.
“There’s a lot of pride and passion.
“I sense it in their voices and the way they speak about the Champions Cup and the feelings they get when they speak about Munster and the past and what Munster have achieved in the past.
“They just want to get that right and achieve what those other guys have.”