A well-prepared Junior Springboks squad departed on Monday evening to New Zealand where they will participate in the IRB Junior World Championship (JWC).
The JWC event will be staged from 2 to 20 June in Auckland and surrounding areas. Twelve teams, including the South Africa Under-20’s as well as defending champions England, 2013 runners-up Wales, and hosts, New Zealand, will compete for the title.
South Africa won the JWC for the first time in 2012 on home soil.
Junior Boks coach, Dawie Theron, had his training squad together for more than a month in Stellenbosch and he is confident his squad is well-prepared for the daunting task.
Theron, himself a former Springbok prop and now in charge of his fourth Junior Bok squad at the JWC, said the time spent together at their camp in Stellenbosch had forged the SA U20’s into a tight unit.
“Our boys have a great team spirit and they are definitely looking forward to playing in New Zealand,” explains Theron.
The Junior Boks’ preparations included a 3-0 series win over Argentina Under-20, but Theron added his team will not take anything for granted:
“Our previous performances at the tournament have taught us many valuable lessons. This is an extremely tough tournament to win. To be successful, you must be on top of your game in each match and give 100 per cent. You also need a bit of luck with injuries, because the turnaround time in between games is very tight. It also helps if you have some degree of experience in your team because those players will calm the others around them because they know what to expect,” explains the SA U20 coach.
South Africa are drawn in a tough group alongside Scotland, New Zealand and Samoa.
“Right now, we regard our opening match against Scotland as the most challenging clash,” cautioned Theron.
“The tournament format is tough on you if you lose, so our initial focus will be on the match against the Scots. We are in no way underestimating Scotland or Samoa. That said we know that facing New Zealand in their back yard in front of their fans and in familiar conditions, will be an extremely big challenge. But we will be looking to build a good foundation in our first match.”
The squad is (in alphabetical order): Cyle Brink (Golden Lions, flank), Aidon Davis (EP Kings, No.8), Jean-Luc du Plessis (Cell C Sharks, flyhalf), Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks, flank), Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks, prop), Joseph Dweba (Toyota Free State, hooker), Corniel Els (Vodacom Blue Bulls, hooker), André Esterhuizen (Cell C Sharks, centre), Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Blue Bulls, fullback), Lloyd Greeff (Leopards, wing), Dan Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls, centre), Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls, fullback), Wilco Louw (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop), Thabo Mabuza (Golden Lions, flank), Malcolm Marx (Golden Lions, hooker), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Vodacom Blue Bulls, centre), Mthokozisi (Zee) Mkhabela (Toyota Free State, scrumhalf), Ngobisizwe Mxoli (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop), Abongile Nonkontwana (Vodacom Blue Bulls, lock), Sergeal Petersen (EP Kings, wing), Handrè Pollard (Vodacom Blue Bulls, flyhalf), JD Schickerling (DHL Western Province, lock), Pierre Schoeman (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop), Victor Sekekete (Golden Lions, flank), Justin (JP) Smith (Vodacom Blue Bulls, scrumhalf), Dayan van der Westhuizen (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Vodacom Blue Bulls, lock) and Jacques Vermeulen (DHL WP, no 8).
The Junior Springboks’ 2014 JWC fixtures:
- 2 June: SA vs Scotland (North Harbour)
- 6 June: SA vs New Zealand (North Harbour)
- 10 June: SA vs Samoa (Pukekohe)
- 15 June: Playoffs (Tbc)
- 20 June: Finals (Auckland)
- There are 17 forwards and 11 backs in the squad. As in previous years, the Blue Bulls have supplied the most players (13), followed by the Sharks (5).
- The squad initially included two sets of twin brothers, Jean-Luc (flank) and Daniel du Preez (lock, both Cell C Sharks) and the Kriel twins, Jesse (fullback) and Dan (centre, both Vodacom Blue Bulls). However, Dan du Preez had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury. His replacement is Jacques Vermeulen (DHL Western Province).
- The Du Preez twins follow in the footsteps of their older brother Robert, who played flyhalf and centre last year for the Junior Springboks in France. The trio are the sons of former Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez.
- Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) is the son of former Springbok wing and coach Carel du Plessis.