Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has struggled to settle on a No13 throughout the time he’s been in charge, using, at various times, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, JP Pietersen, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh (2012), Jaco Taute (2012) and yes, even Fourie, for three games on the 2013 November tour of Europe. Jean de Villiers has also played at 13, and in fact his first seven matches under Meyer were at outside centre.
The position has been one of Meyer’s concerns going into this year’s World Cup – and considering all the players he’s tried at 13 it’s easy to see why. The best combination in the last three years was probably last season’s, with De Villiers at 12 and Serfontein outside him. They combined well, Ser-fontein something of a revelation in a position he’s not that familiar with – he prefers inside centre, where he plays for the Bulls. It must be said though he and De Villiers did swap places throughout the matches as the midfield pairing.
But now, with less than four months to go to the World Cup and Meyer set to soon name his first Bok squad of the year – for the curtailed Rugby Championship – one wonders what the coach will do. Of course, much depends on how fit and ready De Villiers will be, but one can assume if he’s fit he’ll take up his inside centre role.
If he’s not to be risked now, then a number of players can step in – among them Ser-fontein, De Allende or even Handre Pollard. Heck, Frans Steyn is also still around, but whether he’ll be picked, or is even available, is another matter. But what of No 13?
After his successes last season, Serfontein can comfortably take over the jersey again, while De Jongh should be considered for his sheer consistency, but he’s unlikely to get the nod. Pietersen has been tried, but it’s now clear he’s not a natural centre, so why not Mapoe?
When at the Cheetahs a few years ago he was one of the hottest young players around, although injuries and contractual issues dogged his progress. But the 26-year-old has shown in the last two years he’s now ripe for Test rugby. Few will disagree he’s the best No 13 in South Africa. In fact, his statistics show he’s one of the best outside centres in Super Rugby.
He’s a powerful runner, who regularly breaks the line. His handling and feel for the game can’t currently be matched by any other in his position in SA. His defence is also top-notch – one reason why the Lions have had such a successful season. There’s place only for 31 men in Meyer’s World Cup squad – Mapoe should be one of those. - The Star
Original source: Mapoe is a World Cup must