Serfontein backs centre partnership with JP

Springbok centre Jan Serfontein says that he believes his untried midfield partnership with JP Pietersen can work well even though they will both be starting in their positions for the first time at international level against Wales.

The Bulls star had played all of his nine Tests off the bench, but gained a chance at inside centre following the sudden withdrawal of Frans Steyn from the squad on Tuesday.

Sharks winger Pietersen, meanwhile, would be next to him at outside centre — occupying the spot for the first time, having previously only played out wide or at fullback in his 51 other appearances for South Africa.

“JP’s a good player and can adapt to outside centre quite easily,” Serfontein said.

“He’s a guy that has pace and strength, which are important aspects if you want to do well in the midfield.

“I’m very comfortable at 12. So I don’t expect any problems.”

With the suddenness of Steyn’s decision, it had also meant the new centre combination had had little time to train alongside each other.

“We’ve done well together at training,” the 21-year-old said.

“JP’s a senior guy and talks a lot of sense. That helps with things I can improve and I think he has the attributes for a great 13. I’m looking forward to the combination.”

The introduction of Serfontein for Steyn was one of three changes made by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to his side which beat a World XV 47-13 in Cape Town last weekend.

France-based prop Gurthro Steenkamp was picked ahead of Tendai Mtawarira to win his 50th cap at Kings Park, while Fourie du Preez replaced Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf.

Uncapped winger Cornal Hendricks was one of two debutants in the matchday 23, with his Cheetahs team-mate and lock Lood de Jager playing off the bench.

Meyer had been forced into fielding Serfontein and Pietersen due to several injuries at centre. Captain Jean de Villiers, Jacque Fourie and Juan de Jongh were all currently sidelined.

They would be coming up against one of the better midfield combinations in world rugby — Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

However, Serfontein felt they were well-equipped to face the two, while also pointing out flyhalf Morne Steyn, whom he had played with in the past at the Bulls, would be running alongside him.

“Jamie Roberts is a big centre, he’s over 100 kilograms, so they’re obviously going to use him to get front foot ball from the first phase,” he said.

“But I think we’re well prepared, we went through our defence this week and it went pretty well.

“Playing next to Morne, we played Super Rugby together last year, so we understand each other pretty well on defence and attack.”

He also insisted he was ready to step up to the plate, nearly 18 months after bursting onto the Super Rugby scene.

“I learnt a lot under guys like Jean and Jacque.

“I’ve also gained a lot from playing more Super Rugby games this year. I think I’ve made a step up and am in a better position now.”

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