Cape Town - At the start of the year, not many would have predicted a Springbok midfield combination of Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel for Saturday's first Test against France at Loftus Versveld.
But with injuries ruling out the likes of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe, coach Allister Coetzee has backed the Bulls centre pairing.
Lukhanyo Am, who has impressed for the Sharks in Super Rugby this season, is also out injured.
The Bulls have been woeful in 2017, but in Serfontein and Kriel they have two players who are extremely highly-rated.
Kriel has been moved around between the midfield and fullback by Bulls coach Nollis Marais, while Serfontein has spent a significant amount of time on the bench as he recovered from his own injury worries.
In a backline that will have four debutants on Saturday, Serfontein emerges as the most capped backline player in the side with 26 Test caps.
Coetzee may have been tempted to play the seasoned Frans Steyn at No 12, but he has decided instead to back combinations.
"The centre pairing is an obvious choice. With all of the injuries - Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Lionel Mapoe - those two players are experienced centres," he said on Thursday.
"They've got Test match experience and a person like Jan might not have played in the most confident team in Super Rugby, but I know Jan has character.
"He is a guy that has more than an 80% win record in the green and gold ... a class act."
On Kriel, Coetzee said he had been particularly impressed by his work ethic in the national camp.
"Jesse has just been outstanding this whole two weeks and the confidence that both those players showed at training ... I'm very happy with the combination and the experience they have," he said.