A well-prepared South Africa Under-20 team leaves for France on Thursday where they will defend their Junior World Championship title.
The team held their capping ceremony on Wednesday evening at the Paul Roos Markötter Clubhouse in Stellenboch and the special occasion was attended by parents, SARU Executives, team sponsor representatives and other key stakeholders.
SA U20 coach Dawie Theron, who led Junior Springboks to their first JWC title last season, said the squad departs for France with a fair degree of confidence, although they have only one survivor of last year’s memorable campaign.
“This is a new squad so we are going there to challenge the other teams and to win the tournament,” said Theron. “It is a very tough event because you must negotiate an extremely tough pool stage before the playoffs.
“I am happy with our preparations and the mood in the camp is very good. The players are all excited and looking forward to what will no doubt be an extremely tough tournament,” said Theron.
JWC-winning flyhalf Handré Pollard is the sole survivor of the Class of 2012. The team lost exciting Southern Kings winger Sergeal Petersen because of a hamstring injury, but in Jesse Kriel (fullback/wing) and Rohan Janse van Rensburg (centre) they have two able replacements.
Kriel and Janse van Rensburg are two strong running backs who played in the same SA Schools team last year which also featured Petersen, Pollard and Aidon Davis (No 8). Vodacom Blue Bulls flanker Ruan Steenkamp will captain the squad.
The Junior Springboks kick off their campaign on 5 June against the USA at 20h45, and this will be followed by two more tough pools matches against England (9 June, 16h45) and home team France (13 June, 20h45).
SA JWC pool match schedule (all in La Roch Sur Yon):
5 June at 20h45: SA U20 v United States
9 June at 16h45: SA U20 v England
13 June at 20h45: SA U20 v France
18 June: Play-off matches (TBC)
23 June: Play-off matches (TBC)