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Where are they now? The 2012 South Africa U20 Championship winners

By Liam Heagney
Pieter Steph du Toit in action in the 2012 final versus New Zealand (Photo by Luke Walker/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

When South Africa begin their latest World Rugby U20 Championship campaign at home to Fiji on Saturday at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town, it will be seven days after the 12th anniversary of their 2012 22-16 final win over New Zealand in the Mother City.

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A crowd of 33,210 turned up at the now-closed Newlands to see an age-grade South African side inspired by a then 18-year-old Handre Pollard end the four-year grip that the New Zealanders had on the title.

There were tries from scrum-half Vian van der Watt and centre Jan Serfontein to go with the dozen points kicked by their out-half, who was one of three starting players that seven years later would help the Springboks to win the Rugby World Cup in Japan and then follow it up with a repeat success in France four years later.

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HITS, BUMPS AND HANDOFFS! | The biggest collisions from the U20s World Championships

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HITS, BUMPS AND HANDOFFS! | The biggest collisions from the U20s World Championships

Four more of the class of 2012 were capped at different times by the Springboks while three others have enjoyed Test careers with rival countries, namely Paul Willemse with France.

The lock was red-carded for the Junior Boks in the final along with Baby Blacks loosehead Ofa Tu’ungafasi after hair tugging was met with a retaliatory punch. Here is what became of the South Africa matchday 23 from 12 years ago:

2012 Junior Boks World Championship win
South Africa celebrate with the trophy in 2012 (Photo by Ron Gaunt/AFP/GettyImages)

15. Dillyn Leyds
The full-back moved to Australia to make his Super Rugby breakthrough, playing for Western Force, before a 2016 switch to the Stormers led to 10 Springboks caps. Moved to France four years later where he is now a double Heineken Champions Cup winner with La Rochelle. Spoke insightfully with RugbyPass about his career a few days after beating Leinster in the 2022 final.

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14. Raymond Rhule
Incredible to think the winger is all these years later plying his trade alongside full-back Leyds in the 2022 and 2023 back-to-back cup-winning La Rochelle team. The Free State Cheetahs was his route into the pro ranks, numerous Super Rugby campaigns and a PRO14 season with them getting followed by a year at the Stormers. Seven Springboks caps were gained in 2017 before he headed to France where two years at Grenoble led to his 2020 switch to La Rochelle.

13. Kobus van Wyk
It was 2014 at the Stormers when the midfielder made his Super Rugby breakthrough, going on to also play for the Sharks in that tournament. Away from South Africa, he was employed in New Zealand (Hurricanes), France (Bordeaux), England (Leicester) and Italy (Zebre Parma).

12. Jan Serfontein
Having made the Bulls Super Rugby team in 2013, he embarked on a 35-cap Test career with the Springboks that included playing off the bench at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. It was 2017 when he finished up in Pretoria, moving to Montpellier where he has just ended his seventh season. Was a Top 14 champion in 2022 and helped to the club from relegation with a recent play-off win over Grenoble.

11. Tshotsho Mbovane
Was already a Blitzbok cap when making this Junior Boks team – despite getting stabbed some months before the tournament. He returned to sevens after the title success, but his career was upset by the resignation of coach Paul Treu. Some Currie Cup action did materialise, but it didn’t work out in XVs and, without a contract, he played grassroots before switching to sevens coaching at the International Rugby Institute in Pretoria. Set up a foundation in Langa in 2021 to create opportunities for township youngsters.

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10. Handre Pollard
One of the three age-grade champions who won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2019. Five Super Rugby years at the Bulls – which also had a Top League pitstop in Osaka in 2015 – were followed by a post-Japan 2019 switch to Montpellier, with whom he won the title in 2022 along with Serfontein. Now in England with Leicester, he was a key part of the Springboks’ successful defence of their Rugby World Cup title last October in France.

9. Vian van der Watt
While Pollard has enjoyed a golden career, his age-grade half-back wasn’t as fortunate. On exiting the Vodacom Cup Lions, he played Currie Cup at the Leopards, Eastern Province and Boland before calling time on his career in 2018. Now works as an insurance company financial advisor in Johannesburg.

1. Steven Kitshoff
The multi-capped Springboks loosehead, who came off the bench in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and was a starter in the follow-up decider four years later in France, is back home to play for the Stormers in 2024/25 following a short-lived stint in Ireland at Ulster. The prop had already made a Super Rugby breakthrough at the Stormers before his 2011 international age-grade success and bar two seasons at Bordeaux and one at Ulster, his entire club career has been spent in Cape Town.

2. Mark Pretorius
Another from the Golden Lions stable whose career never really took off. He made two Super Rugby appearances off the bench but was last noted playing Currie Cup for the Pumas in 2017/18.

3. Maks van Dyk
Enjoyed a Super Rugby emergence at the 2014 Cheetahs, igniting a transient career where he has been at Griquas, Leinster, Toulouse, Harlequins, Worcester, Pau and now Houston SaberCats in the American MLR. Made only a limited number of starts during his European adventures but became the epitome of a squad player in carving out a lengthy career.

4. Paul Willemse
The one who got away on the Springboks. Made a Super Rugby debut at the Lions in 2012 before becoming a Bulls regular. Some 2014/15 Top 14 action with Grenoble resulted in a move to Montpellier where he has just finished his ninth season, winning the title in 2022 – the same year he started in all five games for Fabien Galthie’s Grand Slam-winning France. Debuted at Test level in February 2019 but missed the 2023 World Cup through injury and was red-carded in his return match versus Ireland last February. Was banned again in April following a club red card and has lately been injured once more.

5. Ruan Botha
Had played Super Rugby with the Lions before winning this age-grade World Cup. Further campaigns followed at the Sharks and Stormers before he headed to Japan where he remains. Was a title winner with Kubota Spears in 2023. Also had a six-month pre-pandemic pitstop at London Irish.

6. Wian Liebenberg
Another Bulls regular who decided to try his luck in France with Montpellier. There was also a brief stint at Grenoble, but it was at La Rochelle where he properly thrived, retiring in 2022 before his 30th birthday as a Heineken Champions Cup winner.

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
The third member of the age-grade world champion XV that went on to star in the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup win and also do it all again at France 2023. His tackling performance in the final in Paris was especially memorable. Had multiple Super Rugby campaigns with the Sharks and Stormers but has spent the last three seasons in Japan with Toyota Verblitz.

8. Fabian Booysen
There were two Super Rugby appearances with the Lions in 2016 after a Currie Cup title the previous year, but that was the height of his career post his age-grade success with South Africa. Now works as a new business sales manager in Jo’burg for an international courier.

Replacements:
16. Franco Marais
The sub hooker learned his trade at the Sharks before switching to Johan Ackermann’s Gloucester in 2018/19. Has two seasons in England before relocating to Japan where he played for Oaska and now Urayasu.

17. Allan Dell
The second of the three South Africans who played Test level with a different country. It was 2014 when the loosehead joined Edinburgh from the Currie Cup ranks at the Sharks, playing five seasons before spending three more at London Irish. Now at Glasgow but didn’t make the Scotland training squad for World Cup 2023 despite having 34 Test caps. Debuted in 2016 and infamously became one of the British and Irish Lions’ ‘Geography Six’ the following year in New Zealand.

18. Braam Steyn
Soon left the Sharks age-grade set-up to take up an offer in Italy and his time at Mogliano, Calvisano and Zebre led to a move to 2015/16 move to Benetton. First capped by Italy in 2016, he faced the Springboks at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Won 50 caps before his retirement in 2023.

19. Shaun Adendorff
The back-rower went down the sevens route before returning to the XV scene, playing for Boland before a couple of seasons on the Super Rugby fringes with the Bulls resulted in a switch to Aurillac in the Pro D2. Also spent some time in England with Northampton before hooking up with Nevers back in the French second tier for two years. Spent 2023/24 at Carcassonne in Nationale.

20. Abrie Griesel
Another whose career in the pro ranks didn’t catch fire. He did his ACL soon after finals, but there were games for Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas before things fully fizzled out. The scrum-half also had a few matches for Munster when Rassie Erasmus was their boss as he was playing locally in the All-Ireland League at the time.

21. Tony Jantjies
It wasn’t until 2017 that the sub out-half finally made his Super Rugby debut at the Bulls but he couldn’t make it stick and was seen playing in the Spanish league for Alcobendas a few years later.

22. Travis Ismaiel
Spent his career in South Africa at the Bulls before giving Harlequins in England a shot in 2019/20 a year after he won his only Springboks cap. The winger returned to the Bulls but retired in early 2021 due to chronic shoulder issues. Remarkably came back to play sevens and was capped by the Blitzboks in 2023.

23. Oli Kebble
Made a 2014 Super Rugby debut for the Stormers before joining Glasgow in 2017. Debuted for Scotland three years later but wasn’t named in their 2023 World Cup squad. Was back in South Africa last weekend to help Glasgow win the URC final versus the Bulls in his final match before leaving his the Scottish club for a stint in France with Oyonnax.

  • Click here to sign up to RugbyPass TV for free live World Rugby U20s Championship matches from Saturday, June 29

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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