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The Bok midfield conundrum

In the trench warfare of Test match rugby Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will need a creative midfield pairing that also has the physicality to dominate the gainline.

 

For the Springboks the greatest challenge will be adjusting to life without Jaque Fourie at outside centre, especially as his replacement will be tasked with marking the powerful Manu Tuilagi.

 

There is no shortage of experience at inside centre with Jean de Villiers, Frans Steyn and Wynand Olivier ensuring that there is plenty of reliable depth to call on.

 

Olivier has shown impressive versatility this season, functioning effectively at outside centre, and he may well be played off the bench for this reason so it would be a surprise to see him in the starting line-up, although he should still be ahead of the promising yet inexperienced Tim Whitehead in the queue.

 

At outside centre the next in line would seem to be Juan de Jongh who has the added advantage of an established partnership with De Villiers and a rock solid defence that is well-suited to the Test match environment. 

 

Robert Ebersohn has been in good form this season and has the ability to time his angled runs well but he and young Lions utility back Jaco Taute lack the physicality required against England and are not expected to be handed surprise debuts.

 

The lack of experienced and proven depth at outside centre makes the puzzle of the Springbok midfield pretty complex, so it will be interesting to see what solution coach Heyneke Meyer comes up with given the short space of time he has to prepare the team.

 

Springbok midfield:

 

Starting:

 

12 Frans Steyn:

He was devastating at the World Cup last year and proved that this is his best position, he does not miss tackles and is a direct and destructive runner so it would seem a wasted if he is not used in the No.12 jersey.

 

13 Jean de Villiers:

He is a strong captaincy candidate and although he has played most of his career at inside centre his experience should mean that he is able to adapt well. He has shown this season that he still has penty of pace and his organisational skills will be just as valuable one position out as well.

 

Bench:

 

21 Juan de Jongh:

He has some Test experience and his committed approach could see him make an impact late in the game, while the fact that he covers both centres also counts in his favour.

 

By Michael de Vries

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