British & Irish Lions

Jean de Villiers picks his Bok starting centres for Lions series

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Legendary former centre Jean de Villiers expects the Springboks to pick a largely similar line-up to the one which played in the Rugby World Cup final when they tackle the British & Irish Lions later this year.

De Villiers was speaking on the RugbyPass Offload podcast where he said he would pick Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am as his starting midfielders against the Lions.

De Villiers, who played in South Africa's 2-1 series victory over the Lions in 2009, singled out Munster-based De Allende as particularly vital to the Springbok cause.

"I don’t see a lot of change in terms of the starting line-up that played in the World Cup final, to be honest," De Villiers, who played 109 Tests for his country, said.

"Being a midfielder myself, Damian de Allende, the way he played recently against Leinster and the performance that he put in, [with] his experience now of playing against a lot of the guys that will be in the Lions squad he has got a massive role to play. Handre Pollard probably will be playing next to him at No,10, but he will need to take on a much more senior role so that will be key for us."

When probed on whether Harlequins midfielder Andre Esterhuizen, who has been a standout in the English Premiership, could start starting alongside De Allende, De Villiers replied:

"I don't see that happening. The combination of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am has really worked for the Boks, so I can't see them playing [De Allende and Esterhuizen] together, it will be a like-for-like swap. So, if De Allende cannot make it then Esterhuizen definitely comes in because he has been very impressive at Quins."

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