Junior Boks back veterans for Rugby Champs

Junior Boks back veterans for Rugby Champs

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Head coach Bafana Nhleko has included five members of last year’s Junior Springbok squad in the 31-player tour group for the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship.

The inaugural Sanzaar-arranged tournament, which features the up-and-coming U20 players from South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia, will be staged in Queensland, Australia next month.

Thursday’s squad announcement follows an intense period of preparations of the SA Rugby Academy training group at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports (SAS).

This new event will be hosted in the Sunshine Coast region, north of Brisbane on Australia’s eastern seaboard during early May and will comprise a round-robin format where all teams will play each other once. The top team after the three-round, six-match tournament will be declared the first champion.

The five players who represented the Junior Boks during the last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Cape Town are prop Zachary Porthen, lock JF van Heerden, scrumhalf Asad Moos and centres Jurenzo Julius and Litelihle Bester.

WATCH: Junior Boks fine-tune for Rugby Champs

A part of the training group’s preparation for the forthcoming Australian tour and the World Rugby U20s included a couple of training matches against provincial outfits.

Nhleko said his coaching staff are pleased with the progress made by the group since planning preparations for their international season began with a series of alignment camps.

“The three matches will be a good test of our group’s character and skill set, as part of a performance process in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Nhleko. “The players have responded well to the detail and demands during the camps, it is now about executing and learning in a Test match pressure environment.”

According to the Junior Bok coach, the Sunshine Coast tournament will give the players crucial playing time against quality opposition, the opportunity to test combinations in a demanding competition environment and assist the coaching staff to fine-tune their team selection before the squad announcement for the world championship.

“The tour will be a great opportunity for the players to gain experience and enjoy a different environment and culture, while we continue to grow as a group, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to play in this tournament from a performance and preparation perspective,” said Nhleko.

“I also see it as part of reviving our Elite Player Development pathway programme, because some of the players in the group have been part of the identification and development process, while those selected who were not part of the EPD have also shown that the pathway process is extensive and there are always opportunities.

“A few players would be disappointed to have missed out on the opportunity to tour, while there are also a few of players who could not be considered for selection because of injury. However, the door is still open for all of them, and we will continue working with the unions to monitor other players because still have a preparation block to complete when we return from Australia before we wrap up our final preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship.”

The Junior Springboks will leave for Australia on Wednesday, 24 April and return home on Tuesday 14 May. All games will be staged at the Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Full Junior Springbok squad:

Props: Casper Badenhorst (Vodacom Bulls), Liyema Ntshanga (Cheetahs), Mbasa Maqubela (Bulls), Reno Hirst (Lions), Ruan Swart (Bulls), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province). Hookers: CJ Erasmus (WP), Ethan Bester (Sharks), Juan Smal (Bulls). Locks: Adam de Waal (WP), JF van Heerden (Bulls), Thomas Dyer (Sharks). Loose forwards: Bathobele Hlekani (Sharks), Divan Fuller (WP), Keanu Coetsee (Bulls), Sibabalwe Mahashe (Lions), Thabang Mphafi (Lions), Tiaan Jacobs (Biarritz, France). Scrumhalves: Asad Moos (WP), Ezekiel Ngubane (WP), Hassiem Pead (Lions). Flyhalves: Thurlon Williams (Lions), Tylor Sefoor (Cheetahs). Centres: Bruce Sherwood (WP), Joshua Boulle (WP), Jurenzo Julius (Sharks), Litelihle Bester (Sharks), Philip-Albert van Niekerk (Bulls). Outside backs: JC Mars (WP), Joel Leotlela (WP/ SA Sevens contracted), Michail Damon (Bulls).

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

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