Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron on Tuesday named his 28-man squad that will do battle at World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England, from 7 to 25 June.
Eastern Province centre Jeremy Ward will lead the team in the showpiece, while his provincial team-mate Junior Pokomela and 2015 SA Schools captain, DHL Western Province lock Ernst van Rhyn, have been named as vice-captains.
The squad features two players who were members of the Junior Springbok squad that finished third at the international showpiece in Italy last year, namely centre JT Jackson and scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Nine members of the SA Schools team that featured in the Under-18 International Series in South Africa last year have also been included. They are centre Stedman Gans, flyhalves Manie Libbok and Curwin Bosch, scrumhalf Embrose Papier, locks Ruben de Villiers and Van Rhyn, loose forwards Cobus Wiese and Zain Davids and prop Carlü Sadie.
The Junior Springboks will kick off the 2016 international spectacle against Japan on Tuesday, 7 June at the Academy Stadium, before taking on Argentina on 11 June at the AJ Bell Stadium, and France on 15 June back at the Academy Stadium in the pool stages.
“It is always challenging to name a squad of only 28 players, especially if one considers the immense talent at junior level in South Africa, but we have selected the best possible team for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Theron.
“JT and Marco were members of our touring squad last year, and they will be able to guide the other players in terms of what to expect, while we are lucky to have nine players in the squad who have played against some of the northern hemisphere teams in the Under-18 International Series.
“Unfortunately injuries ruled a few players out of contention, and I feel for them. But nevertheless I am pleased with the squad we have selected and I believe they have potential to challenge the best teams in the showpiece.
“This team offers something different to the sides we have selected in the past, and we are excited by the prospects these players offer.”
Among the players who were ruled out of contention for selection due to injury were Xerox Golden Lions lock Rhyno Herbst, who was recently stabbed in an attack, while DHL Western Province prop Wikus Groenewald and Vodacom Blue Bulls utility forward Hendre Stassen are nursing ankle injuries.
The team will play their first official warm-up match on Friday at Wits University in Johannesburg against the Xerox Golden Lions Under-19 and Under-21 teams, with an eye on sharpening up their game before the tournament.
This will be followed by clashes against Maties in Stellenbosch on Tuesday, 17 May and the SWD Eagles in Oudtshoorn on Saturday 21 May, with the team set to depart for the international showpiece on 2 June.
Junior Springbok squad for World Rugby U20 Championship (in alphabetical order):
- Tango Balekile (Hooker – Eastern Province)
- Kwenzo Blose (Prop – Toyota Free State)
- Curwin Bosch (Flyhalf / Fullback – Cell C Sharks)
- Jan-Henning Campher (Hooker – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Zain Davids (Loose forward – DHL Western Province)
- Ruben de Villiers (Lock – DHL Western Province)
- Stedman Gans (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- James Hall (Scrumhalf – Eastern Province Kings)
- Denzel Hill (No 8 – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Jaco Holtzhausen (Prop – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- JT Jackson (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Marco Jansen van Vuren (Scrumhalf – Xerox Golden Lions)
- Manie Libbok (Flyhalf / Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Mosolwa Mafuma (Wing – Toyota Free State)
- Franco Naude (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- S’busiso Nkosi (Wing – Cell C Sharks)
- Nicolaas Oosthuizen (Prop – Eastern Province)
- Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Junior Pokomela (No 8 – Eastern Province, vice-captain)
- Carlü Sadie (Prop – DHL Western Province)
- Eli Snyman (Lock – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Franco van den Berg (Prop – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
- Edwill van der Merwe (Wing – DHL Western Province)
- Ernst van Rhyn (Lock / Loose forward – DHL Western Province, vice-captain)
- Keanu Vers (Fullback – Eastern Province)
- Jeremy Ward (Centre – Eastern Province, captain)
- Cobus Wiese (Loose forward – DHL Western Province)
- Eduard Zandberg (Lock – DHL Western Province)