Springboks forced to field inexperienced midfield pair against Roberts and Davies
2:08pm Wednesday 11th June 2014 in Sport
WALES' experienced midfield combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies will look to thrive against a pair of South African rookies when they take to the field for the first Test in Durban on Saturday.
Roberts and Davies have joined forces 31 times for Wales while they were also paired together in the British and Irish Lions' crucial third Test win against Australia last summer.
This weekend they will go up Jan Serfontein, who makes his first international start, and JP Pietersen, who played outside centre against a World XV last weekend but has won 51 caps on the wing.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has been forced to throw them in at the deep end because Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Jaque Fourie are injured while Frans Steyn withdrew from the squad on Tuesday.
But the Springboks boss is confident that his inexperienced pair, who will be aided by the presence of seasoned half-backs Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez, are up to the task.
"Jan was first selected when he was 20 last year and it's always been our plan to groom him for a long Springbok career," said Meyer.
"He's been playing well for the Vodacom Bulls lately and his first start for the Springboks is well-deserved after making nine appearances from the bench in 2013.
"Jan and JP will face a very experienced midfield combination on Saturday, but they have played against the best in Vodacom Super Rugby and know what is expected of them."
Lock Victor Mafield captains the side and equals John Smit's record of 111 Tests for South Africa.
He will lead an intimidating pack that features Bakkies Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Louw and Willem Alberts. Saracens hooker Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira and Schalk Burger will help ensure there is no drop-off when replacements are called from the bench.
Du Preez is preferred to Ruan Pienaar at scrum-half with the Ulsterman having to be content with a place on the bench.
South Africa sevens player of the 2013 Cornal Hendricks makes his Test bow after featuring against the World XV and forms a rapid back three with Bryan Habana and Willie le Roux.
South Africa: W le Roux, C Hendricks, JP Pietersen, J Serfontein, B Habana, M Steyn, F du Preez, G Steenkamp, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, B Botha, V Matfield (captain), F Louw, W Alberts, D Vermeulen. Replacements: S Brits, T Mtawarira, C Oosthuizen, L de Jager, S Burger, R Pienaar, J Goosen, L Mvovo
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