Maynooth - The inexperienced duo of Robbie Henshaw and New Zealand-born new cap Jared Payne have been given the chance to succeed the legendary pairing of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy as Ireland's centres by being named to start against South Africa on Saturday.
The duo, with just three caps between them as opposed to the 212 combined of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy once the former retired after beating France to win the Six Nations title earlier this year, will be up against a battle-hardened Springbok partnership of Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein.
De Villiers, the senior partner with 102 caps, and Serfontein, capped 16 times, are coming off a victory over the world champion All Blacks.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, probably with an eye to the future, omitted D'Arcy from the starting XV even though he returned to full training with the squad this week after recovering from a heavy knock he took in Leinster's European Rugby Champions Cup match with Castres late last month.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how they measure up," Schmidt told reporters at the Irish team hotel.
"You can't tell how it will go. All you can do is instil in them the confidence they need to go out there and play their natural game."
Schmidt, who enjoyed a hugely successful spell with Irish province Leinster guiding them to two European Cups and the European Challenge Cup, said the Springboks represented a formidable challenge for the duo but there was never a perfect time to blood players.
"Gordon took longer to recover from the knock, and while he will be seen during the other two tests, we were impressed with how well Jared and Robbie both went in training together," said Schmidt.
"One can always pose the question when is this or that player ready to step up. However, unless you give then the opportunity you will never know.
"This is a really important benchmark game for us and they will be tested. Aside from them having to take down their opposing centres they will also have the Springbok wings coming off their respective wing to attack through the centre.
"It is going to be an incredibly challenging game for them," added the 49-year-old New Zealander.
Payne, 29 and who came to Ulster from the Auckland Blues in 2011, has been more effective at fullback but he said he would have to adapt.
"Guess there will be a bit more tackling to do!" he said.
"I am really stoked at being selected and very proud. It is a great opportunity and I want to make the most of it."
Schmidt, who has been in the post since replacing Declan Kidney after the 2013 Six Nations, has been deprived of the services of 15 capped players through injury including the likes of hooker Rory Best, prop Cian Healy and flanker Sean O'Brien.
Veteran lock Paul O'Connell, no stranger to injuries down the years, will captain the side in the first of their three November Tests -- the other two are against Georgia on November 16 and Australia on November 22.
15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath
Substitutes: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen