Alex Dombrandt will be allowed to develop his game naturally without having all his innate rugby instincts coached out of him, says Harlequins boss Paul Gustard.
Dombrandt scored the try which finally swung a topsy-turvey clash against Gloucester in Quins’ favour at the Stoop on Sunday.
The number eight powered over from close range and after a TMO check, was awarded the touchdown which nudged the hosts in front in a contest which saw the lead change six times.
With the conversion from Marcus Smith making it 20-19, the match was still far from over, but Quins dug in to claim only a second win of the campaign – there have been three defeats.
Dombrandt was man of the match – not just because of that decisive moment but also because of his carries and energy. He helped take the fight to tough opponents, who last season won in west London to reach the play-offs at Quins’ expense.
“He was one of our top try scorers last season and it’s critical that he keeps that form going,” Gustard said of his impressive back rower.
“I just want him to enjoy his rugby. In reality, he’s 18 months into a career and we don’t want to over-coach him.
“We need to improve certain aspects of his game but I also want him to express himself and keep looking to hit the right lines, because he sees it.
“He’ll enjoy the attention he’s getting. He’s coming out of his shell more and more. At heart he’s a Harlequins fan. He’s brought up around the corner – a very popular member of the squad, He’s a good character, a good personality – a level-headed kid.”
The 22-year-old has already impressed so much that he got a call-up to the England squad after a fine performance for the Barbarians last season and came close to a World Cup call-up. But the head coach at Quins says he has his feet firmly on the ground.
“All the stuff with England in the summer hasn’t gone to his head,” Gustard said. “He’s come back and trained hard. He didn’t get the nods for the shirt in the first two rounds against Exeter and against Bristol at home but then he came in against Northampton and played really well.
“He’s a big player for us because he gets points, he gets line breaks. He gives us momentum.
“There’s loads more he can do. He’s 18 months into a career. There’s not many that know the game at 18 months in. He’s still adjusting to things and to being a professional – where you get up in the morning, go to the gym, go swimming, go to a meeting and back it up with a performance on Saturday.
“People are aware of him but he’s adapting and growing all the time. The important thing is we don’t want to dampen his attacking spirit and his intuition.”
Speaking of the 23-19 win – which also owed much to a late penalty miss in front of the posts from Billy Twelvetrees – Gustard said: “It was tense. The result was more important than the performance today.
“Having lost a couple lately in the league, it was important that we got back on the horse – and to back it up from a really dominant performance last week against Bath, albeit in a different competition. To do it again today was really important for the squad.”
England star Kyle Sinckler was kept out with the calf strain he picked up during the World Cup but could be back next weekend when Quins travel to Belfast to play Ulster in the Champions Cup. But Mike Brown’s knee injury looks likely to keep him out for the rest of the season.