World Cup Winner Damian De Allende On When & How He Ended Up Signing For Munster

Big signing.

World Cup-winning Springboks centre Damian de Allende is quickly settling into life at Munster following his blockbuster move over the summer.

De Allende arrived with fellow South African World Cup star RG Snyman, whose arrival has been cut short by a nasty ACL injury, but on the flip side, the centre has played nearly every minute for Munster in their opening two games.

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But how exactly did the move come about and when did he decide to sign for the southern province? Turns out the entire thing was orchestrated by head coach Johann van Graan who spoke directly to his agent and made him not take up an extension with the Japanese side he had just signed for.

A deal was finalised before the World Cup with discussions beginning before last year’s Rugby Championship.

“I initially signed a two-year deal to go to Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan and the second year was optional,” de Allende told us.

“The just before the Rugby Championship last year, coach Johann [van Graan] got in touch with my agent and asked if I’d be available to come after the World Cup.

“I said I had already committed to one-year at the Panasonic Wild Knights but the second year was optional.

“Then when we finally finalised the deal I didn’t take up the second year in Japan and I signed to come straight after the Japanese season, which was finishing in June or July so it would have fallen straight into the 2020/21 season [with Munster].

“Obviously thinking then my body wouldn’t have gotten a nice rest but we know COVID has had a big effect on the world and for us sportsmen, it’s helped quite a lot on our bodies so it was nice to get a big break and I’m very happy and very grateful to be at Munster.”

With former Munster coaches Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and Felix Jones all part of South Africa’s World Cup coaching ticket, you’d imagine they played a role in de Allende signing for Munster, but it turns out – they didn’t even know about it.

“They actually didn’t know, ha, when I signed the deal,” de Allende said with a smirk on his face.

“Obviously the news broke out after the World Cup final but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone because of the Panasonic deal. They knew I wasn’t coming for the second year but we didn’t want to let it out to the media during the World Cup – and I don’t know who leaked it! But I had signed before the World Cup and hadn’t spoken to Rassie, Jacques or Felix about it.

“Only my closest family knew.

“For me, it was quite an easy decision to make [signing for Munster].”

In terms of settling into life in Limerick, with de Allende finding a home on the northside of the city, close to Thomond Park, the centre said it’s been quite easy with Limerick very much reminding him of home.

“It’s been very nice, I think it has been quite easy for myself and my girlfriend,” de Allende of settling into life in Limerick.

“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.”

“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.”

And he simply cannot wait to walk out in front of a full house at Thomond Park when spectators are back allowed in stadiums at some stage down the line.

“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,” de Allende added.

“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.”