A Junior Springbok squad bolstered by several players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience was named by SARU in Cape Town on Tuesday for the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship to be hosted by New Zealand from June 2 to 22.
Handré Pollard (flyhalf, Vodacom Bulls), André Esterhuizen (centre, Cell C Sharks), Sergeal Petersen and Aidon Davis (both Southern Kings) as well as Malcolm Marx (hooker, Lions) have all either played Vodacom Super Rugby or have been part of their respective franchise’s Super Rugby training groups.
The squad also sees the return of several players who did duty for the South Africa Under-20’s in France last year, where they claimed the bronze medal.
Pollard, who also starred in the 2012 tournament, Davis and Jesse Kriel (fullback, Vodacom Blue Bulls) all played for the Junior Boks in 2013. Winger Petersen, who made an impressive Super Rugby debut for the Kings last year by scoring several stunning tries, was also included in the squad but missed the trip to France because of a hamstring injury.
South Africa Under-20 coach Dawie Theron and the national selectors, Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh, selected the 28-man squad following an intensive identification and trials process. More than 50 players attended the training camp which ran for almost three weeks in Stellenbosch and included two trial matches as well as several training games.
The JWC squad returned to their training base in Stellenbosch on Tuesday to continue their preparations for the tournament. This will include a three-match international series against traditional rivals Argentina from May 2 to 10 in the Western Cape.
Theron said the weather and playing conditions in New Zealand, as well as a tough pool draw, will contribute to a challenging competition.
“Our players are used to dry and fast fields and we will encounter the opposite of these conditions in New Zealand. These were obvious factors we had to take into account when selecting the squad,” explained Theron, who led the Junior Springboks to victory at the 2012 JWC on home soil.
He looked forward to working with the finalised squad and said: “We will now intensify our preparations. The series against Argentina will give us an ideal opportunity to test our game plan, readiness and decision-making against a very competitive team and in real match situations.”
•There are 17 forwards and 11 backs in the squad. As in previous years, the Blue Bulls have supplied the most players (13), followed by the Sharks (5).
•The squad includes two sets of twin brothers, Jean-Luc (flank) and Daniel du Preez (lock, both Cell C Sharks) and the Kriel twins, Jesse (fullback) and Dan (centre, both Vodacom Blue Bulls).
•The Du Preez twins follow in the footsteps of their older brother Robert, who played flyhalf and centre last year for the Junior Springboks in France. The trio is the sons of former Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez.
•Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) is the son of former Springbok wing and coach Carel du Plessis.
•The squad will play a three-match international series against Argentina U20 on May 2, 6 and 10.
•Their departure to NZ from Cape Town International Airport will be on May 26, a day after the capping ceremony in Stellenbosch.
The Junior Springboks’ 2014 JWC fixtures:
2 June: SA vs Scotland (North Harbour)
6 June: SA vs New Zealand (North Harbour)
10 June: SA vs Samoa (Pukekohe)
15 June: Playoffs (Tbc)
20 June: Finals (Auckland)
The squad is:
Cyle Brink (Golden Lions, flank)
Aidon Davis (EP Kings, No.8)
Jean-Luc du Plessis (Cell C Sharks, flyhalf)
Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks, flank)
Dan du Preez (Cell C Sharks, lock)
Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks, prop)
Joseph Dweba (Toyota Free State, hooker)
Corniel Els (Vodacom Blue Bulls, hooker)
Andrè Esterhuizen ( Cell C Sharks, centre)
Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Blue Bulls, fullback)
Lloyd Greef (Leopards, wing)
Dan Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls, centre)
Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Blue Bulls, fullback)
Wilco Louw (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop)
Thabo Mabuza (Golden Lions, flank)
Malcolm Marx (Golden Lions, hooker)
Duncan Mathews (Vodacom Blue Bulls, wing)
Mthokozisi (Zee) Mkhabela (Toyota Free State, scrumhalf)
Ngobisizwe Mxoli (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop)
Abongile Nonkontwana (Vodacom Blue Bulls, lock)
Sergeal Petersen (EP Kings, wing)
Handrè Pollard (Vodacom Blue Bulls, flyhalf)
JD Schickerling (DHL Western Province, lock)
Pierre Schoeman (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop)
Victor Sekekete (Golden Lions, flank)
Justin (JP) Smith (Vodacom Blue Bulls, scrumhalf)
Dayan van der Westhuizen (Vodacom Blue Bulls, prop)
Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Vodacom Blue Bulls, lock)