Three capped World Rugby U20 Championship players, Rikus Pretorius, David Coetzer and Phendulani Buthelezi, are among 34 players named in a Junior Springbok training squad that will assemble in Stellenbosch next week.
The squad also includes two players who were involved in the Junior Springbok warm-up games last season, namely David Kriel and Nkosikhona Masuku. All five of them were part of the SA Rugby Academy squad that first got together early in February at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS).
The training camp, which forms part of the SA Rugby Academy programme, will run from Monday, 1 April to Thursday, 18 April, and will feature three friendlies as part of the Under 20 International Series. The Junior Boks will face the Argentina and Georgian U20s and a senior Namibian XV.
While Buthelezi and Fezokuhle Mbatha have been included in the squad, they will continue with their Vodacom Super Rugby commitments for the Cell C Sharks.
“We have narrowed down the group that we have been working with at the SA Rugby Academy in the last two months because it is easier to work with a smaller squad, but the door remains open for players outside of this group to play their way into contention for places in the squad,” said Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux.
“We have three matches lined up in the U20 International Series and then we will face England and Wales on the Junior Springboks warm-up tour to the UK, so there is still a long way to go before we finalise our World Rugby U20 Championship squad that will travel to Argentina.”
The squad will assemble on Sunday to begin their preparations for their opening match in the U20 International Series against Georgia on Tuesday, 9 April. They will face the Argentina U20’s and Namibian XV on Saturday, 13 April, and Wednesday, 17 April, respectively.
“We are looking forward to these matches because it will be the first real test for the players since the SA Rugby Academy started,” said Roux.
“We had a few training sessions and training games in the last two months, but these matches will expose the players to proper international competition, which will give them a taste of what to expect in Argentina.”
With the team set to play five international friendlies in the lead-up to the World Rugby U20 Championship, Roux believes it would serve as good preparation for his charges going into the international spectacle.
“These matches are vital to prepare the team as well as possible for the challenge they will face in Argentina,” said Roux.
“Apart from exposing the players to the type of competition they will face in the World Rugby U20 Championship, it offers us similar preparation to the Northern Hemisphere teams, who participate in the U20 Six Nations in February and March.
“It will also give us the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of our structures, and to ensure that we are on the right track before we depart for Rosario.”
The Junior Springboks will kick off their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign against Scotland on Tuesday, 4 June, before taking on Georgia (Saturday, 8 June) and New Zealand (Wednesday, 12 June) in the pool stages. The semi-finals will be contested on Monday, 17 June, and the final on Saturday, 22 June.
Junior Springbok training squad (in alphabetical order):
Thaakir Abrahams (Cell C Sharks)
Phendulani Buthelezi (Cell C Sharks)
David Coetzer (DHL Western Province)
Caleb Dingaan (Cell C Sharks)
Vusile Dlepu (DHL Western Province)
Kudzwai Dube (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Celimpilo Gumede (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks)
Francke Horn (DHL Western Province)
Hanro Jacobs (Cell C Sharks)
Sabastian Jobb (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Qamani Kota (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
David Kriel (DHL Western Province)
Jaco Labuschagne (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Elrigh Louw (Toyota Free State)
Nkosikhona Masuku (Xerox Golden Lions)
Fezokuhle Mbatha (Cell C Sharks)
Thabiso Mdletshe (Cell C Sharks)
JJ van der Mescht (Cell C Sharks)
James Mollentze (Toyota Free State)
Lunga Ncube (Cell C Sharks)
Jay Cee Nel (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Sanele Nohamba (Cell C Sharks)
Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Xerox Golden Lions)
Marnus Potgieter (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Rikus Pretorius (DHL Western Province)
Dylan Richardson (Cell C Sharks)
Evan Roos (Cell C Sharks)
Sibusiso Sangweni (Xerox Golden Lions)
Janko Swanepoel (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Emile van Heerden (Cell C Sharks)
Joe van Zyl (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Dameon Venter (Xerox Golden Lions)
Mnombo Zwelendaba (DHL Western Province