The midfield battle will be as important as the one up front in the Test between the Springboks and Wales at Kings Park on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Frans Steyn's sudden departure will impact on the Bok game plan. The midfield combination of Steyn and JP Pietersen did well against the World XV in Cape Town last week, and would have used the coming match against Wales to make a further statement. As Nick Mallett said afterwards, there probably isn't a bigger centre combination in world rugby, and those physical attributes are a factor when it comes to defence.
With Steyn ruling himself out, and with several other centre options on the injured list, Serfontein will need to front up.
He's no midget at 1.87m and 98kg, and yet, he'll be standing in the shadow of a Welsh Goliath this Saturday. Opposite number Jamie Roberts is a giant of midfielder at 1.93m and 110kg.
The Boks will aim to stifle the Welsh at source. The hosts need to improve at the scrum after last week's limp showing, and will have to be more consistent against a Wales lineout which boasts one of the best set piece exponents in Alun Wyn Jones.
Wales have a reputation for their breakdown play and enjoy a battle at the gainline. And yet, the Boks will be expected to limit the tourists in these areas.
Wales will miss Sam Warburton at the tackle point, but they still possess some heavy hitters who are capable of making a dent in the Bok defence.
Roberts was at his destructive best when Wales so nearly beat South Africa during the pool stages of the 2011 World Cup. When his forwards provide him with a platform, he can be especially difficult to stop.
The Bok forwards should produce a sharper and ultimately more powerful collective showing this Saturday. The South African midfield will have an equally important job to do.
Wales will look to exploit that area between Morné Steyn and Serfontein. It's a channel they may not have targeted had Steyn been available. This Test will mark Serfontein's first start, and his task couldn't be tougher.
Serfontein will need the Bok pack to fire as they did against Wales in Cardiff last November. This will aid him in his mission to contain Roberts, not to mention Jonathan Davies and what is a formidable Wales back three.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Boks 25, Wales 1, Draw 1
In South Africa: Boks 8, Wales 0
SERFONTEIN'S STATS THAT MATTER
9 – The number of Tests he has played for the Boks (all as a substitute)
1 – The number of tries he has scored for the Boks
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Aaron Shingler, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ian Evans, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/Backpagepix
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