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Boks fire accident an unwanted distraction

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Damian de Allende was hopeful that he would recover within a few weeks, but it is just the latest distraction that the Springboks didn’t need ahead of the British and Irish Lions series.

FILE – Damian de Allende on his way to score a try during the Rugby World Cup match between Springboks and Canada. Photo: EPA

CAPE TOWN – If you didn’t know that Damian de Allende was a world-class rugby player, you’d think he was a model gracing the catwalks and fashion magazines of the world.

His rugged good looks come from his mixed South African-Spanish heritage.

So, his admirers will hope that the accident that saw him sustain burns to his face, hands and legs at the weekend won’t result in any lasting damage.

But on a more serious note, the incident involving De Allende, Bok teammate RG Snyman, soon-to-be-retired Irish-South African flank CJ Stander and their Munster teammate Mike Haley could have been much worse than it is.

The club head coach Johann van Graan – the former Bok and Bulls assistant – said that “we are hugely relieved that the lads are all OK …

The players have all been treated and are being well looked after, with Damian and RG meeting the specialist again later this week to review next steps of their recovery”.

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De Allende told SuperSport yesterday that one of the four players had thrown petrol on to the fire that they were standing around, which led to an explosion.

He was hopeful that he would recover within a few weeks, but it is just the latest distraction that the Boks didn’t need ahead of the British and Irish Lions series.

Only six players were in camp in Bloemfontein on Monday, with the SA-based personnel still involved in the Rainbow Cup SA, while a number of others are still at their clubs in England and France.

Coach Jacques Nienaber is scheduled to host a press conference today, where he will shed light on the matter, as well as the ongoing preparations.

A Springbok spokesman told Independent Media yesterday: “We are fully aware of the (fire) situation, and will comment once we have a clear understanding of the impact on our planning.”

That impact could result in De Allende not being ready to play the first Test against Georgia on July 2, which Nienaber won’t be happy about as he has made it clear that he will pick the strongest possible team against the Eastern Europeans for the Boks to be at full throttle against the Lions on July 24.

Some French-based players such as Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt may only arrive in South Africa in the week of the first Georgia Test, depending on how far Toulouse progress in the Top 14 competition.

Stalwart No.8 Duane Vermeulen’s ankle injury is likely see him miss the Lions series altogether, while Nienaber is also sweating on the fitness of Snyman himself, who is recovering from a long-term ACL knee injury, as well as Lood de Jager (leg).

On top of that, flyhalf Handré Pollard hasn’t played much rugby in recent weeks after coming back from an ACL injury too, while Vermeulen’s possible replacement, Marcell Coetzee, played his first match in three months for the Bulls last week.

Nienaber may have thought that being Bok coach is a rather easy job, as he has been unbeaten for over 18 months – due to Covid-19 ensuring that South Africa haven’t played any Tests since the 2019 World Cup.

Now the former defence coach will be feeling the heat …