JOHANNESBURG – Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
That is where Springbok coach Allister Coetzee finds himself when considering his riches at centre after Jan Serfontein’s stellar performance in the second Test against France last weekend.
The return to form of Serfontein has been a blessing in disguise for Coetzee after he endured a terrible 2016, when he was thin on his stocks in the midfield.
Moreover, it has created a pleasant migraine that could see Coetzee being spoilt for choice come the Rugby Championship and end of year tour.
The barnstorming Bulls centre turned back the hands of time to a period in his career where he was the best inside centre in the world at junior level and a future solution for the Boks with his all-round display with ball in hand and on defence. Last weekend he all but cemented his place in the side for the remainder of the year.
However, Coetzee will find it that much more difficult to select Serfontein, without batting an eyelid, when the likes of Damian de Allende and Rohan Janse Van Rensburg return to full fitness, while the experience and obvious talent of the prodigal son, Frans Steyn, can never be ignored.
While Coetzee will count his blessings at inside centre with four quality players at his disposal, he will also have to take careful consideration on who will complement Serfontein at No 13.
Serfontein’s Bulls teammate Jesse Kriel has seemingly done enough in the first Test to warrant a fair run at outside centre and will in all probability form the Boks midfield pairing in the third and final Test at Ellis Park on Saturday but it is not a combination set in stone going forward.
Lions centre Lionel Mapoe has been by far the standout performer in Super Rugby out of all the South African outside centres and did little wrong in his outing against the French in Durban last weekend.
Mapoe, just like Kriel, is a deadly attacking exponent and runs the kind of lines that will fit like hand in glove into the spaces that Serfontein can open up for him. His lack of game time alongside Serfontein, however, could sway Coetzee toward Kriel.
But then what about the consistent Francois Venter and the exciting Lukhanyo Am?
Venter has hardly put a foot wrong in the past two seasons as the leader of a losing cause at the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and his tireless toil with ball in hand and on defence, has kept him at the door of the Green and Gold more often than not.
Then there is Am, the unlikely Springbok centre whose opportunity to crown off an outstanding Super Rugby season for the Sharks with a Springbok call-up was halted by an injury in the last game before the series against France.
Coetzee has always rated Am and last year spoke glowingly of his defensive abilities but it has been his work with ball in hand that has given the Sharks some variation in the manner in which they attack from the back.
Add to Am’s arsenal his ability to scavenge opposition ball at the breakdown and Coetzee cannot ignore the exciting talent that the man from King Williamstown brings to the party.
As hard a place as Coetzee may find himself when choosing the perfect fit in the midfield, when all these options are available, for the Boks going forward, he will undoubtedly prefer to be in this tight spot than where he was last year – scrambling in the wilderness for any player that could just wear the No 12 and 13 jerseys.