TOKYO, 17 Sep - South Africa's Damian de Allende and All Black Sonny Bill Williams have been in some memorable on-field battles in the centres over the years, and they are gearing up for another one on Saturday when the Springboks take on New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup 2019 opener in Yokohama.
But despite the significance of the occasion, De Allende, still had time to acknowledge Williams the man on Tuesday.
The New Zealand No.12 – a former rugby league star, heavyweight boxer and Olympian with the All Blacks Sevens – has endeared himself to the world beyond rugby and even sport with his acts of kindness and work in the community.
Williams made headlines four years ago when he gave his gold medal to a youngster who had been tackled by a security guard after he tried to run on to the pitch in the aftermath of the RWC 2015 final at Twickenham, where the All Blacks beat Australia 34-17.
The 34-year-old, who has 53 test caps, has also expressed his solidarity with many communities in strife around the world, including the victims of the Christchurch attacks this year.
It is that – as much as those silky offloads – that has impressed De Allende, above centre.
Handre Pollard and Damian de Allende as a quarterback/running back combo 🧐🏈 pic.twitter.com/CmuNlxABae— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) September 17, 2019
"I love it (playing against Williams). I've played against him numerous times at test and Super Rugby level," the 27-year-old Springbok midfielder said at a media conference in Tokyo Bay.
"The challenge he gives you on the field is amazing and if you embrace the challenge it can make you not just a better rugby player but also a better person off the field.
"He does a lot for humanity off the field. I always look forward to the challenge.
"I wouldn't say (we are) mates but we do have a chat after the game – but, very casual. I haven't met up with him off the field or anything like that."
That does not mean the man from Cape Town will take it easy on Williams on Saturday.
Both players have had success against each other in recent seasons and they will again strive to put their teams on the front foot in Yokohama with ball-in-hand and in defence.
"I won't just say me as an individual, (but) as a team, we will try and put our opponents under pressure as a whole. We can't just single him out but he does pose a big threat with his offloading game and he is very strong, very powerful in contact," De Allende said.
"In the last few games, we have managed to put him under pressure and, if he does play, hopefully we can keep putting him under pressure and limiting him."