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Durban - The selection at outside centre for Saturday’s Test against Wales at Kings Park is likely to remain the chief talking point when the Springbok team is announced on Wednesday.
Last week, coach Heyneke Meyer sprang something of a surprise when he picked JP Pietersen at No 13, and at the time he said the regular winger’s performance against the World XV would go some way to determining whether this move could become a long-term one.
However, Pietersen probably didn’t receive enough opportunities with ball in hand to swing Meyer one way or the other, and so it will be interesting to see whether the coach will present the 27-year-old with another run in the midfield this weekend. Adding to that possibility was the news on Monday that specialist outside centre Juan de Jongh has been ruled out of Saturday’s first Test due to a severe chest infection.
It would be a big call for Meyer to hand Jan Serfontein or S’bura Sithole their first start for the Springboks, although a case could be made for either, considering that Serfontein did play off the bench nine times last year, while Sithole has made up a midfield pairing with Frans Steyn for the Sharks this season.
Another, more conservative option could see JJ Engelbrecht return to the position where he played for most of last year’s international season, with Pietersen then likely to shift back to the right wing in place of newcomer Cornal Hendricks.
Speaking of Hendricks, though, last year’s SA Sevens player of the year showed some encouraging signs against the World XV, and serious consideration should be given to affording the elusive runner another opportunity at the highest level.
“It was a very good start from Cornal,” said Springboks assistant coach John McFarland. “He can be very proud of that, he cut the line, his support play was excellent and he was a real handful. It was a very good debut.”
Besides the unavailability of De Jongh, Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff has an ankle injury, while lock Flip van der Merwe has been given a leave of absence to attend his brother’s wedding, with his place on the bench set to be taken by the Cheetahs’ Lodewyk de Jager.
Otherwise, Meyer has a full squad to choose from, and the only other change could come at scrumhalf where Fourie du Preez is a good bet to take over from Ruan Pienaar as the starting No 9.