Six players from the Eastern Cape have been selected by Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron as part of his 28-man squad that will do battle at World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England, from 7 to 25 June
Most notably is that Eastern Province centre Jeremy Ward will lead the team in the showpiece, while his provincial team-mate Junior Pokomela has been named as vice-captain, alongside 2015 SA Schools captain, DHL Western Province lock Ernst van Rhyn.
Joining Ward and Pokomela are, hooker Tango Balekile, prop Nicolaas Oosthuizen, scrumhalf James Hall and fullback Keanu Vers.
SARU Kings Academy manager, and Currie Cup head coach, Robbi Kempson, said he was very proud of the players that had been selected.
“They are all products of the SARU Kings Academy, they are professional athletes and have played phenomenally well as a unit last year, in the U19 Currie Cup 1st division competition,” he said.
The Eastern Province U19 team won 11 of their 12 regular matches and went on to be crowned overall champions last year.
“I have always said that Jeremy was a strong ambassador for rugby in the region and I am confident that he will make the people of South Africa proud as he leads this SA U20 team and the same can be said for Junior Pokomela, who is a phenomenal rugby player,” said Kempson.
Kempson also complimented the SA Kings academy staff, Mzwandile Stick, Nadus Nieuwoudt and Sean ‘O Dea for their contributions they had made in developing top class professional rugby players.
Charl Crous, Chief Operations Officer of the Southern Kings franchise, which has contracted both Hall and Pokomela for the 2016 season, said it was a testament to the quality of rugby talent that was being developed in the Eastern Cape.
“One of the driving forces behind the call for a Super Rugby franchise to be based in the Eastern Cape was to create a career path for the young, talented rugby playing individuals from the region, who in the past have been forced to move elsewhere to pursue a career in rugby,” he said.
Crous said it was now important that the talent be retained in the Eastern Cape going forward to ensure growth of the Super Rugby franchise in the region.
The Junior Springboks will kick off the 2016 international spectacle against Japan on Tuesday, 7 June at the Academy Stadium, before taking on Argentina on 11 June at the AJ Bell Stadium, and France on 15 June back at the Academy Stadium in the pool stages.
“It is always challenging to name a squad of only 28 players, especially if one considers the immense talent at junior level in South Africa, but we have selected the best possible team for the World
The team will play their first official warm-up match on Friday at Wits University in Johannesburg against the Xerox Golden Lions Under-19 and Under-21 teams, with an eye on sharpening up their game before the tournament.
This will be followed by clashes against Maties in Stellenbosch on Tuesday, 17 May and the SWD Eagles in Oudtshoorn on Saturday 21 May, with the team set to depart for the international showpiece on 2 June.
Junior Springbok squad for World Rugby U20 Championship (in alphabetical order):
Tango Balekile (Hooker – Eastern Province)
Kwenzo Blose (Prop – Toyota Free State)
Curwin Bosch (Flyhalf / Fullback – Cell C Sharks)
Jan-Henning Campher (Hooker – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Zain Davids (Loose forward – DHL Western Province)
Ruben de Villiers (Lock – DHL Western Province)
Stedman Gans (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
James Hall (Scrumhalf – Eastern Province Kings)
Denzel Hill (No 8 – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Jaco Holtzhausen (Prop – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
JT Jackson (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Marco Jansen van Vuuren (Scrumhalf – Xerox Golden Lions)
Manie Libbok (Flyhalf / Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Mosolwa Mafuma (Wing – Toyota Free State)
Franco Naude (Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
S’busiso Nkosi (Wing – Cell C Sharks)
Nicolaas Oosthuizen (Prop – Eastern Province)
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Junior Pokomela (No 8 – Eastern Province, vice-captain)
Carlü Sadie (Prop – DHL Western Province)
Eli Snyman (Lock – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Franco van den Berg (Prop – Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Edwill van der Merwe (Wing – DHL Western Province)
Ernst van Rhyn (Lock / Loose forward – DHL Western Province, vice-captain)
Keanu Vers (Fullback – Eastern Province)
Jeremy Ward (Centre – Eastern Province, captain)
Cobus Wiese (Loose forward – DHL Western Province)
Eduard Zandberg (Lock – DHL Western Province)