Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux has named Ernst van Rhyn as captain of the SA Under-20 squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Tbilisi, Georgia, with eight players amongst the chosen 28 who played in the same tournament last year.
Van Rhyn, Curwin Bosch, Kwenzo Blose, Carlu Sadie, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, Manie Libbok and Embrose Papier were all members of the Junior Springbok team that finished fourth in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester in 2016.
Roux’s squad also includes six players who represented the SA Schools team last season in the U19 International Series, namely Salmaan Moerat, who captained the team, Gianni Lombard, Rewan Kruger, Wandisile Simelane, Damian Willemse and Daniel Jooste.
While Bosch has been a stand-out performer for the Cell C Sharks in Vodacom Super Rugby, Willemse made his debut for the DHL Stormers, while Davids and Gans have been with the Springbok Sevens squad for the last three months.
The team will be led by experienced captain Van Rhyn, who was the SA U20 vice-captain last season and the SA Schools captain in 2015, while Johan Grobbelaar has been named the vice-captain.
“We are pleased with the quality of the players in our squad and we believe the team has the potential to go all the way in the competition,” said Roux.
“We had to make a number of tough calls to narrow down the group to 28 players, but we are confident that we have selected a squad worthy of competing against the best teams in the world in Georgia.
“A number of the players have experienced international age-group rugby either in the World Rugby U20 Championship or the U19 International Series, while others have been exposed to International Sevens and Vodacom Super Rugby, which will be invaluable in Georgia.”
Commenting on the selection of the captain, Roux spoke highly of Van Rhyn and said: “Ernst is a hard worker on the field and has proved his worth as a leader in the last few seasons at the SA Schools team and the SA U20s last year.
“A captain has to lead by example and ensure that there is cohesion in the team at all times, and these qualities will be vital in guiding us through the competition.” Looking at the tournament in Georgia, Roux expected his team to be tested thoroughly, but he was pleased with their preparation up to now.
“We face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages, so we have to be in top form from the outset to stay in a strong position to stake a claim for the trophy,” said Roux.
“That said we have been working very hard at training in the last two months to prepare both physically and mentally for what we can expect in Tbilisi and we hope that this will pay off.
“The important thing now will be to maintain the high intensity of our training sessions and to keep sharp before we depart for Georgia.”
The Junior Springboks will face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages of the international spectacle in Tbilisi, which runs from 31 May to 18 June. The team will depart for Georgia on Thursday, 25 May.
Junior Springbok squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship (alphabetical)
Juarno Augustus – DHL Western Province Loose forward
Kwenzo Blose* – Toyota Free State Cheetahs Prop
Curwin Bosch* – Cell C Sharks Flyhalf/Fullback
David Brits – DHL Western Province Centre
Jean-Luc Cilliers – Xerox Golden Lions Flyhalf
Zain Davids* – DHL Western Province Loose forward
Francois de Villiers – Cell C Sharks Scrumhalf
Stedman Gans* – Vodacom Blue Bulls Centre
Johan Grobbelaar (vice-captain) – Vodacom Blue Bulls Hooker
Wikus Groenewald – DHL Western Province Prop
Daniel Jooste – DHL Western Province Hooker
Rewan Kruger – Toyota Free State Cheetahs Scrumhalf
Manie Libbok* – Vodacom Blue Bulls Flyhalf/Fullback
Gianni Lombard – Xerox Golden Lions Fullback
Len Massyn – Xerox Golden Lions Loose forward
Lee-Marvin Mazibuko – DHL Western Province Prop
Salmaan Moerat – DHL Western Province Lock
Reinhard Nothnagel – Xerox Golden Lions Lock
Embrose Papier* – Vodacom Blue Bulls Scrumhalf
Yaw Penxe – EP Kings Winger
Carlu Sadie* – DHL Western Province Prop
Wandisile Simelane – Xerox Golden Lions Centre/Wing
Hendre Stassen – Vodacom Blue Bulls Lock
Gerhard Steenekamp – Vodacom Blue Bulls Prop
Ruben van Heerden – Vodacom Blue Bulls Lock
Damian Willemse – DHL Western Province Flyhalf
Nama Xaba DHL – Western Province Loose forward
Ernst van Rhyn* (captain) – DHL Western Province Loose forward
*2016 World Rugby U20 Championship player