Rugby Championship

Serfontein feeling lucky at 13

2014-09-23 19:12
Jan Serfontein (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The emergence of Jan Serfontein in an unfamiliar position has been one of the plus points for South Africa in a Rugby Championship campaign that has otherwise proven disappointing to date.

The 21-year-old is set to again be asked to play at outside centre against Australia at Newlands on Saturday, a role in the backline he is enjoying despite early frustrations away from his more natural number 12 inside centre position.

Whatever his initial reservations, he was a standout backline performer in the last two Tests against Australia and New Zealand, both of which ended in narrow defeats, having been the side's top tackler in difficult away conditions.

With no natural outside centre in the Springbok squad it is a position he fills more out of necessity than by design, but it does mean he gets to play alongside the man he is sure to eventually replace at inside centre, captain Jean de Villiers.

"At 12 you get a lot more of the ball, especially in our structure, but at 13 there is not as much so it has taken some adaptation as I like to feel the ball in my hands. It can be a bit frustrating," Serfontein told reporters on Tuesday.

"But on defence 13 is just one channel wider and in general play we switch around quite a bit, so on the whole I think I have adapted quite well. I'm starting to enjoy it."

De Villiers, with a century of caps, is the perfect mentor according to Serfontein, who also started three of his 14 Tests on the wing.

"Playing with Jean makes it easier for me, the fact that he has played 100 Tests and had that experience for me to learn from. He tends to make the right decision more often than not and is a great communicator."

Springbok defence coach John McFarlane said he has enjoyed watching the progression of Serfontein in the side.

"If you look at the quality of the centres we have played against in the last eight games, Jan has done really well," McFarlane said.

"The quality of his tackling is impressive and against New Zealand he made 24 in the game and in Perth (against Australia) it was 21. In both matches he made the most."

Serfontein almost won the game for South Africa against the world champion All Blacks with a burst at the death, but saw their chances of winning the Rugby Championship this year likely dashed as he was brought down.

"I got a knock to my head during the game so I don't remember much about the match, but it was close, we had some good momentum at the end."

South Africa and Australia have 10 points after four rounds of the Rugby Championship and trail leaders New Zealand by six.

The All Blacks will claim the title if they win with a bonus point against Argentina in La Plata on Saturday, although they may not need the extra point if neither South Africa or Australia take five from their game in Cape Town.

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