Ashwin Willemse, a member of the Rugby World Cup 2007 winning Springbok squad, was today named as the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 Ambassador. The key age grade tournament will be played from 4 to 22 June in Cape Town, South Africa.
Willemse was also a key member of Jake White’s IRB Under 21 World Championship 2002 winning squad. He is one of only a handful of players worldwide to have won both the IRB’s premier age grade tournaments and the coveted Rugby World Cup.
The announcement was made at a special media launch in Constantia, Cape Town, where Virgin Active SA were also confirmed as an official tournament supplier. Willemse will assist tournament hosts, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) in the promotion of the event.
IRB Vice Chairman and President of SARU, Oregan Hoskins, praised Willemse as an excellent choice.
“Ashwin is a shining example of what you can achieve through hard work, dedication and commitment. As a teenager and later as a young adult, he rose above his challenging circumstances to establish himself as one of the best junior rugby players in the country and later as a worthy Springbok.”
“He is nowadays involved in many initiatives which are aimed at improving the lives of less fortunate children. It is great to see someone who has achieved so much in the Game giving back to the community. I cannot think of a better, more suitably qualified person for the role of JWC Ambassador.”
Speaking at the launch, Willemse said: “I remember so vividly the encouragement and support I received while playing for the SA Under-21 team in 2001 and 2002. The IRB Junior World Championship is a huge stepping stone for young players who aspire to be full internationals.”
“There is no doubt that the experience and knowledge I gained while playing for the SA U21’s contributed greatly to my development as an established provincial player and proud Springbok. I am delighted to be involved and I am looking forward to playing my part, to convince all Cape Townians to get behind the tournament. The event will showcase the future stars of rugby, right here in their own backyard.”
Willemse is currently working as an analyst for SuperSport, the South African sports broadcaster who will show all 30 Junior World Championship matches live in a record for the tournament, and he also supports many charitable courses through his many fundraising initiatives.
Willemse played 19 times for the Springboks after he made his debut in 2003 winning the SA Rugby Player of the Year and the Players' Player of the Year award having previously won the SA Rugby Young Player of the Year in 2002, the only player to achieve this remarkable triple accolade.
For the full JWC 2012 match schedule click here>>
More than 110 players have represented their countries at the IRB Junior World Championship and gone on to play on the test stage with notable graduates including South Africa’s Patrick Lambie, New Zealand’s RWC 2011 winners Aaron Cruden, Zac Guildford and Sam Whitelock, Australia’s David Pocock and Will Genia, England’s Owen Farrell and the youngest ever RWC captain, Sam Warburton of Wales all starting their international careers in the JWC.