The Junior Springboks were grouped with hosts New Zealand, Samoa and Scotland when the pools and fixtures of the IRB Junior World Championship 2014 were confirmed earlier today in Auckland.
The future stars of world Rugby will come together in New Zealand from June 2-20 for the seventh edition of the Under 20 tournament which will see matches played at North Harbour Stadium and Pukekohe Stadium during the pool stages and semi-finals on June 2, 6, 10 and 15.
Eden Park, the stadium where New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final, will then host the #JWC2014 title decider on June 20.
The pool stages have thrown up some mouth-watering encounters with hosts New Zealand to face South Africa in a repeat of the 2012 JWC final, which the Junior Springboks won 22-16 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.
Defending champions England will face traditional rivals Australia, Argentina and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 winners Italy in Pool A, while 2013 runners-up Wales face encounters with France, Ireland and Fiji in Pool B.
SA Under-20 coach, Dawie Theron, who led the Junior Springboks to their first JWC title in 2012 and the bronze medal in France earlier this year, said New Zealand on their home soil will provide the ultimate test for his team.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge for top spot in each of the pools, more so in our pool where we are up against New Zealand, who will be determine to win back the JWC trophy in front of their own fans, Samoa who will also have huge support and Scotland, who always fight till the end,” explained Theron.
The Junior Boks won their last two encounters against New Zealand, beating the Kiwis in the 2012 final and clinching a thrilling win in their third place playoff in June this year.
According to Theron, the Junior Boks will be able to draw on a lot of positives from their away victories this year over England, France and New Zealand: “The key for us is to build on the belief that we can play well and win against the strongest teams away from home. The JWC is an extremely tough competition to win but we are looking forward to this great challenge,” added Theron.
South Africa kick off their tournament on Monday 2 June 2014 against Scotland at the Pukekohe Stadium, then face New Zealand on Friday 6 June in the North Harbour Stadium and then complete their Pool C fixtures against Samoa on Wednesday 10 June in Pukekohe.
The IRB Junior World Championship has gone from strength to strength since its introduction in 2008 with record crowds attending the South African event in 2012 and record television audiences watching the 2013 edition in France.
IRB Tournament Director Philippe Bourdarias said preparations are on track for New Zealand.
“Following the massive success of Rugby World Cup 2011, it’s great to be back in New Zealand and getting ready for what promises to be an extraordinary tournament,” said Bourdarias.
“The Junior World Championship, which is now more competitive than ever, has grown massively as a result of its open, running Rugby, its values and the chance for fans to see the future stars of world Rugby up close.”
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “We are incredibly proud to once again play host to the Rugby world.”
“Two years ago we delivered a very successful Rugby World Cup. I am confident we can once again stage a very special event that will make our country proud while also providing the right platform for the best young players in the world to perform to their potential.”
The tournament dates, match venues, pools and schedule for #JWC2014 were announced at the official launch at St Peter’s College in Auckland on Friday.