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Junior Springboks name 31-man group for inaugural U20 Rugby Championship

By Finn Morton
Players of South Africa line up for the national anthem before 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)

South Africa Rugby have named an exciting 31-man touring group as the Junior Springboks chase a slice of history at the first-ever Under-20s Rugby Championship next month.

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The Junior Springboks will come up against the best young rugby talent from New Zealand, Australia and Argentina over three fixtures on Australia’s Sunshine Coast from May 2 to 12.

This is the inaugural instalment of the SANZAAR-run competition which will see each team play three round-robin fixtures before a champion is crowned on the Sunday.

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Five players from last year’s South Africa squad who finished third at the World Rugby U20 Championship on home soil have been included in an otherwise fresh group.

Prop Zachary Porthen, lock JF van Heerden, scrum-half Asad Moos, and the midfield pair of Jurenzo Julius and Litelihle Bester are all back for the Junior Springboks to play Down Under.

The squad follows a concentrated preparation period from the South Africa Rugby Academy training group at the well-known Stellenbosch Academy of Sports.

Head coach Bafana Nhleko said the Junior Springboks are looking forward to the opportunity to test themselves against some of the world’s best before the World Rugby U20 Championship.

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“The three matches will be a good test of our group’s character and skill set, as part of a performance process in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” coach Bafana Nhleko said in a statement.

“The players have responded well to the detail and demands during the camps. It is now about executing and learning in a test match pressure environment.

“The tour will be a great opportunity for the players to gain experience and enjoy a different environment and culture while we continue to grow as a group, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to play in this tournament from a performance and preparation perspective,” he added.

“I also see it as part of reviving our Elite Player Development pathway programme, because some of the players in the group have been part of the identification and development process, while those selected who were not part of the EPD have also shown that the pathway process is extensive and there are always opportunities.

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“A few players will be disappointed to have missed out on the opportunity to tour, while there are also a few players who could not be considered for selection because of injury.

“However, the door is still open for all of them, and we will continue working with the unions to monitor other players because we still have a presentation block to complete when we return from Australia before we wrap up our final preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship.”

The Junior Springboks will leave for Australia on Wednesday, April 24, and return home on Tuesday, May 14.

All matches will be played at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Thursday, 2 May

Junior Springboks vs New Zealand, Australia vs Argentina

Tuesday, 7 May

New Zealand vs Argentina, Junior Springboks vs Australia

Sunday, 12 May

Junior Springboks vs Argentina, Australia vs New Zealand

Junior Springbok squad for the U20 Rugby Championship

Forwards

Props: Casper Badenhorst (Vodacom Bulls), Liyema Ntshanga (Toyota Cheetahs), Mbasa Maqubela (Vodacom Bulls), Reno Hirst (Fidelity ADT Lions), Ruan Swart (Vodacom Bulls), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province)

Hookers: CJ Erasmus (DHL Western Province), Ethan Bester (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Juan Smal (Vodacom Bulls)

Locks: Adam de Waal (DHL Western Province), JF van Heerden (Vodacom Bulls), Thomas Dyer (Hollywoodbets Sharks)

Loose forwards: Bathobele Hlekani (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Divan Fuller (DHL Western Province), Keanu Coetsee (Vodacom Bulls), Subabalwe Mahashe (Fidelity ADT Lions), Thabang Mphafi (Fidelity ADT Lions), Tiaan Jacobs (Biarritz, France)

Backs

Scumhalves: Asad Moos (DHL Western Province), Ezekiel Ngubane (DHL Western Province), Hassiem Pead (Fidelity ADT Lions)

Flyhalves: Thurlon Williams (Fidelity ADT Lions), Tylor Sefoor (Toyota Cheetahs)

Centres: Bruce Sherwood (DHL Western Province), Joshua Boulle (DHL Western Province), Jurenzo Julius (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Litelihle Bester (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Philip-Albert van Niekerk (Vodacom Bulls)

Outside backs: JC Mars (DHL Western Province), Joel Leotlela (DHL Western Province / SA Sevens contracted), Michail Damon (Vodacom Bulls)

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