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To World Cup winner de Allende, memories are made of this...

RUGBY By Reuters | April 21st 2020
South Africa's Damian de Allende with his girlfriend after their World Cup final match against England. [Reuters]

Being stuck in Japan during the coronavirus lockdown, with no immediate prospect of getting home to South Africa, has produced one positive for World Cup winner Damian de Allende.

It has given him time to digest the enormity of last November’s win in the tournament in Japan.

“Time flies during a World Cup tournament and it had really not sunk in just how we won it,” the Springbok centre told South Africa’s Netwerk24 newspaper group yesterday.

“Now I’ve had a chance to reflect on it all and I have a huge smile on my face whenever they show some highlights on TV.”

“I’m very proud of what we as a team achieved. Not just for ourselves, but for our country.”

The 28-year-old midfielder was a key figure in the side, no more so than in the semi-final against Wales when he powered through the opposition for the opening try of the 19-16 victory in Yokohama.

“The only thing I remember is that we had a penalty advantage. I saw how Willie le Roux came in off the right hand side to create vital space in the line for us. When he sees a chance, he always does the best he can to take advantage of it.

“I just remember getting the ball, trying to use my feet and when I looked up I was dotting down for the try.

“Everything happens so quickly at a World Cup that you almost forget. But having a chance to sit down and reflect, the memories come flooding back.”

De Allende went back after the World Cup to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japan Top League, but that has been cut short with just six rounds played before the rest of the season was cancelled.

De Allende tried to fly home as soon as the cessation of the season was announced but, by that time, flights had been grounded and he is cloistered with Springbok teammate Malcolm Marx, also unable to fly back before the lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Once he is able to leave Japan, De Allende will set off a new adventure with Munster in Ireland.

“I am keen for a new challenge and want to see the world,” he added.

“It was always a dream of mine to play overseas and to be able to work under Johann van Graan at Munster made the decision even easier.”

Van Graan is a former Springbok assistant coach.

“When I got the offer and had a bit of a discussion, I was left in no doubts. I’m very excited by what lies ahead,” De Allende said.

Meanwhile, the head of Australia’s National Rugby League stepped down with immediate effect yesterday, as the top-level competition continues to reel from the COVID-19 crisis.

The NRL said “it has been mutually agreed” that chief executive officer Todd Greenberg would step down Monday “after reflecting on the needs of the game”.

The cash-strapped league, which pitches itself as part of Australia’s social fabric, has floated a series of unsuccessful schemes to get play restarted quickly -- including isolating players on an island.

After vowing to play on through the crisis, rhe season was suspended on March 24 after just two rounds as the government shut down all non-essential gatherings in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.

That has caused TV revenues to dry up and could threaten the existence of several teams and the financial viability of the league.

The NRL is planning to resume on May 28 but it is far from clear if that will be possible, with the government warning that travel restrictions and social distancing could remain in place for the foreseeable future.

As well as being a lucrative TV product, rugby league in Australia also fills newspaper columns with players’ soap-opera-style scandals.

“It has been my great honour and privilege to be the CEO of the NRL for the last four years. Despite the variety of challenges and pressures I have loved every single minute of the journey,” said Greenberg.

“I am very proud of my contribution to the game.”

The NRL appointed chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo as an acting chief executive, “while a search is undertaken” for a replacement.

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