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Baby Boks to make international comeback in 4-team U20s series

By Sam Smith
Thaakir Abrahams of South Africa U20 celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during a third place play-off match between Argentina U20 and South Africa U20 as part of World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 at Racecourse Stadium on June 22, 2019 in Rosario, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

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Fans may be eagerly awaiting the return of the Springboks to the rugby field, but it looks like the Junior Springboks are set to beat them to the punch.

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The ‘Baby Boks’ will play for the first time since 2019 when they line up against Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay in a four-round U20 International Series at the Markötter Stadium in Stellenbosch in June.

The inclusion of Georgia in the tournament will mark a memorable occasion for the union as their junior and senior sides will be in the country, with the Springboks meeting Georgia in back-to-back Tests on the first two weekends of July.

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The Junior Boks will begin their campaign against Uruguay on Friday, 18 June, and will line up against Argentina on Wednesday, 23 June, and Georgia on Monday, 28 June.

The other fixtures in the first three rounds of play will see Georgia being pitted against Argentina, Uruguay taking on Georgia, and Argentina battling it out with Uruguay respectively.

The teams will receive four log points for a win, two points for a draw, and a bonus point for scoring four tries or more or suffering a defeat by seven less points or less.

The series will culminate in a thrilling closing round with the top two ranked teams and bottom two sides respectively meeting on Saturday, 3 July.

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Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko will select his squad from the group of players who have been putting in the hard yards on the training field at the SA Rugby Academy since early April.

Georgia and Argentina are familiar foes of the Junior Springboks, with the sides having met in the 2019 and 2017 World Rugby U20 Championships in recent years, while Georgia also toured South Africa in 2018 for two warm-up games against the Junior Springboks.

South African schools players celebrate a try in 2018. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Uruguay, meanwhile, will make their inaugural trip to South Africa to face the Junior Springboks.

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“It has been a tough and challenging time for the players with junior competitions worldwide being cancelled due to the COVID 19 pandemic, so we share in their excitement to have this fantastic opportunity to showcase their skills against quality international teams,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to World Rugby for making this series possible, as international competition at this level is invaluable in terms of player development.”

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “With rugby tournaments affected by the ongoing pandemic all around the world, the organisation of the Under 20 International Series in South Africa provides a welcomed boost to junior teams involved and we look forward to having them back in action in June.

“The U20 pathway has proven very successful in raising competitiveness and standards worldwide and we are confident it will continue to deliver the future stars of our game.”

Nhleko was equally thrilled to see the Junior Springboks return to action in what will mark his first stint in the head coach role and said: “It’s great news that we are able to get international fixtures in such trying times and we are thankful to all who have made it possible.

“I’m happy for the boys that they have this opportunity and it is great reward for their hard work. They know how lucky they are to receive this chance because last year a very talented group of players missed out on U20 international rugby.”

Nhleko added: “The U20 programme is an important step in the player pathway systems across the world. We have a responsibility to develop the players for the future, and the players and coaches understand the expectation to perform.

“Argentina and Georgia have proven to be tough opposition in the last few years, and we expect the same test from a set piece, physicality and skills perspective. The little we have seen of Uruguay is their quick play and breakdown contest.

“We are looking forward to the privilege of being back on the field.”

U20 International Series fixtures:
Friday, 18 June
13h00 – Georgia vs Argentina
15h00 – Junior Springboks vs Uruguay

Wednesday, 23 June
13h00 – Uruguay vs Georgia
15h00 – Junior Springboks vs Argentina

Monday, 28 June
13h00 – Junior Springboks vs Georgia
15h00 – Uruguay vs Argentina

Saturday, 3 July
11h00 – Team 3 vs Team 4
13h00 – Team 1 vs Team 2

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Baby Boks to make international comeback in 4-team U20s series

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