Damian de Allende is familiar with Jesse Kriel's style of play in midfield. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Stormers centre Damian de Allende is likely to start at inside centre for the Springboks against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday night, replacing the indisposed Jan Serfontein.

It is a touch too soon to state that De Allende is in the last chance saloon with the Boks, but he will know that he is not far off it.

And if he is confirmed at No 12 when Allister Coetzee names his side late on Thursday afternoon, De Allende knows that he needs a big performance.

The 25-year-old made a big impact on the South African rugby scene at both Super Rugby and international level in 2015, and for much of last year, but has subsequently suffered form lapses and injuries.

This year Serfontein has been the first-choice inside centre and has started in each of the Boks’ nine Tests, an unbroken run that has seen him go a long way to realising the rich potential he showed as a Junior Bok.

It was a blow for the SA game when Serfontein announced that he had signed for French club Montpellier, even though he was still eligible for Bok selection under the “30 cap or more” rule for foreign-based players.

Serfontein has 35 Bok caps and could have been picked to play against Ireland on Saturday, but he asked to be stood down from selection because he has just moved to Montpellier and wanted a chance to settle in.

It is one of the realities of the modern era that on the weekend that the Boks arrived in Dublin, just across the sea in France, Serfontein and Frans Steyn (another Bok centre), comprised the midfield for Montpellier in their victory over Clermont in a club game.

Coetzee is likely to pick De Allende because he plays similarly to Serfontein.

They are both robust ball-carriers, and it would be a like-for-like swap that would cause minimal disruption in a backline that is also likely to see Handré Pollard promoted at flyhalf for Elton Jantjies.

The other centre on tour, Lukhanyo Am, is more comfortable at outside centre.

In most of his 27 Tests, De Allende has teamed up with Jesse Kriel, the incumbent No 13 this year.

They were the centre pairing for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and are well acquainted with each other’s style of play.

An in-form centre that is not on tour, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, is waiting in the wings, and De Allende has a good opportunity to restate his case and keep the status quo in the centre pecking order.

IOL Sport