South Africa's Inside Centre Dilemma

South Africa's Inside Centre Dilemma

The World Cup is just a couple of weeks away and South Africa still have issues to address, writes Darry Worthington. 

South Africa have gotten their World Cup preparations off to a belting start hammering Australia in their Rugby Championship opener before snatching a late draw against the All Blacks in the Round 2 to clash between the arch-foes.

Key to the 'Boks blistering start to the tournament has been the unexpected depth of their playing squad.
Western Province youngster, Herschel Janjties, has illustrated just how deep South Africa's stocks are at scrum-half. While Janjties has been the real star of the show, there have also been some solid showings from other players who perhaps aren't first-stringers at the moment with Trevor Nyakane and Beast Mtawirira putting in great showings off the bench against the All Blacks last weekend, and Elton Jantjies enjoying a composed performance against Australia in the opening round.

Things are certainly rosy for the 'Boks at present but there is one position that will be causing coach Rassie Erasmus headaches; the inside centre berth. Both Andries Esterhuizen and Damian de Allende haven't covered themselves in glory during the opening two Rugby Championship fixtures with the former getting nailed with a yellow card against Australia and the latter struggling to maintain possession or provide a real spark in the Round 2 affair against the All Blacks.

The two aforementioned players are battling it out with veteran Fran Steyn for the number 12 jersey. Steyn has looked rather good off the bench but may not fully match fit yet having not started an international game in near on a half-decade.

We take a look at each player and their pros and cons below.

Damian de Allende
De Allende was the heir apparent to Jean de Villiers number 12 jersey at both national and provincial level when the former Springbok captain hung up his boots. At that point in time, De Allende was a very expansive number 12 who had a great offloading game and ran solid lines. And while his still capable of picking a good angle, he does it a lot less frequently and his offload game has become non-existent. He also struggles to keep a hold of the ball in the tackle and does often shift the ball on to his outside centre.


-Vastly experienced having been to the 2015 World Cup
-Isn't afraid to make a solid hit and communicates well on defence

-Has played a fair bit of rugby next to Jessie Kriel

-Extremely one dimensional
-Often loses the ball in contact

-Ball doesn't go past his channel to his outside backs
-Doesn't have the kicking game that his competitors for the position do

André Esterhuizen
The most physical of the trio is undoubtedly André Esterhuizen. The Natal Sharks hardman is an absolute handful to play against with his powerful runs often sucking in numerous defenders. While powerful ball carries and heavy tackles are still Esterhuizen's bread and butter, he has added an offload to his game this season, and his kicking has also improved.


-Has played a lot of rugby next to Lukhanyo Am who is likely to be the first choice outside centre at the World Cup
-Great tackler who continues to put in mammoth hits for the entire 80-minutes of a game
-Is slightly less one-dimensional than De Allende


-Lacks discipline at times which was evident against Australia
-Less experienced than De Allende or Steyn having never gone to World Cup
-Is often guilty of poor decision making when he has the ball in his hands.

Francois Steyn 

The veteran World Cup winners return from the international wilderness may just prove to be Rassie Erasmus' masterstroke. Steyn, who has been plying his trade for Montpellier in the Top 14 since his fallout with SANZAAR, has made two cameo appearances for the 'Boks during the Rugby Championship and has looked good in each of them. The former Natal Sharks wonder-boy is likely to get a start against Argentina in South Africa's final Rugby Championship game and it will be interesting to see how long he lasts having not played a full game of international rugby for so long.


-Vastly experienced having won a World Cup already
-Like Esterhuizen, Steyn is also a strong ball carrier who makes metres at will
-No one can kick as far as he can whether it be out of hand or from the kicking tee


-Hasn't played international rugby for ages
-Very new to the 'Bok set-up
-Can lose his head if things don't go his way

Closing Notes

Rassie Erasmus has a major dilemma here which he needs to solve ASAP. De Allende and Esterhuizen are good players but they are unlikely to win you a World Cup, Frans Steyn, on the other hand, is a man who can change the game in the blink of an eye. If the veteran has a solid showing against Argentina then Rassie needs to start him against New Zealand come September 21st.

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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