Springbok captain Jean de Villiers horrific knee injury sustained against Wales in Cardiff last weekend has put a massive question mark over the centre position for the national team in the coming months. De Villiers’ knee reconstruction surgery was a success, but with an 8-month rehab period, it’s hard to see the courageous centre back in full form before the prestigious tournament.
In the meantime, however, here are 6 replacement’s that could fill the Springbok No. 12 jersey:
Jan Serfontein has raised his game since donning the Springbok jersey. Destined to play at the highest level from his early days with the U20 Springboks, Serfontein cemented himself in the Bulls’ Super Rugby line-up, and quickly made his step-up to Heyneke Meyer’s squad. The 21-year-old has been molded into the outside centre position, but his true-calling was always in the No. 12 channel. He is a hard, straight and line-breaking runner who has all the abilities to act as a midfield pivot. Whether this is part of Meyer’s plan is yet to be seen…
Frnacois Steyn’s dramatic and unexpected departure from the Springboks was somewhat of a mystery around the country. Whether it was internal disputes with Saru or other players is speculation at this point, but one thing is for sure – the Boks could definitely use the power, size and skill of the World Cup-winner. Francois Steyn has been pushed and pulled around the backline for quite some time, and while some prefer him in the flyhalf or fullback position, he always played well at inside centre at Test level. Steyn could provide another kicking option and some wide distribution skills to the exciting Bok back-three.
Juan de Jongh
The name on everyone’s lips for Bok honours throughout the Currie Cup was Juan de Jongh’s. The Western Province captain was impressive during his side’s campaign to glory in 2014, and he showed some great growth himself. De Jongh has developed out of the side-stepping outside centre into a playmaking and defensively solid No. 12. De Jongh also performed excellently for the Barbarians against Leicester Tigers in the Northern Hemisphere, showing he has the ability to play exciting rugby in tough conditions. His leadership skills also can’t be ignored – and that’s something the Bok backline will be missing without de Villiers.
The flyhalf battle between Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie has been one of the most interesting aspects of Springbok rugby in 2014, and with Lambie clearly raising his tactical game and Pollard showing how dangerous he himself can be, one has to ask if there’s enough room in a backline for the both of them. Pollard has played centre before, and it’s a position which lets him highlight his running ability too. The modern mindset of Southern Hemisphere rugby sees two playmakers, at No. 10 and 12 respectively, just look at the Wallabies or All Blacks. Lambie and Pollard could form a potent playmaking combination, with Lambie holding down the decision-making and providing clean and early ball to Pollard, who could then add some pace and spark the rest of the backline. This is a gamble that could pay massive dividends for Meyer if tested.
The Bulls’ dynamic runner had some impressive performances for the Springboks in 2013, but faded out of favour with a dip in form during Super Rugby this year. Engelbrecht is big, incredibly fast and has an exciting mindset when he gets the ball in his hand, but whether he can hold down the No. 12 jersey is yet to be seen. Engelbrecht has specialised on the wing and at outside centre, so demanding that he learn the intricacies of playing in the midfield just a few months out of a World Cup could be too much, but he should definitely be kept in mind.
Damian de Allende
Damian de Allende had a superb Super Rugby season which earned him a deserving spot in the Springbok set-up. He played against Argentina in some incredibly harsh hailing conditions in Pretoria during the Rugby Championship this year, which, to be fair, was not a fair reflection of his talents. De Allende definitely deserves another run at centre for the Springboks, where he can showcase his skills as a running option and offloader. Seeing him against some quality world-class opposition would be a great test, but time is running out to attempt these experiments.
Who do you think should take the Springbok No. 12 jersey going forward? Let us know in the comments section below.