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Where have all the players & silverware gone?

OPINION: Former two-time Junior World Cup-winning coach and Director of Elite Sport Mentorship Eugene Eloff is back with another cracking column for @rugby365com‘s readers.


The topic of ‘Where have all the players gone?’ refers to all the great young players that played for the Junior Springboks that vanished – as well as the gold medal-winning championship teams.

It reminds me of a great folk song written in 1955 by Peter Seeger: ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’

(Continue reading below video … )

I would like to break this article down in three segments
1. Winning results of SA junior rugby
2. Head coach and captains of these teams
3. Under-19 Teams between 2003 and 2006

South African junior teams started dominating the World Rugby competitions between 1999 and 2005.

Then there was a lapse and in 2012 we won the title again.

Since then there was no GOLD (eight years) and as a nation that loves winning, silver and bronze is not good enough.



* 1994: South Africa beat Italy 41-18 in the Final in Lyon, France.
* 2003: South Africa beat New Zealand 22 – 18 in the Final in Paris, France.
* 2005: South Africa beat New Zealand 20 – 15 in the Final in Durban, South Africa.


* 1999: South Africa beat New Zealand 27 – 25 in the Final in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
* 2002: South Africa: beat Australia 24-21 in the Final at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
* 2005: South Africa beat Australia 24 – 20 in Mendoza, Argentina.


In 2008 the Under-20 World Championship replaced the earlier Under-21 and Under-19 Championships.


* 2012: South Africa beat New Zealand 22-16 in the Final at Newlands, South Africa



Coach: Andre Spies
Captain: Corne Krige

Coach: Eugene Eloff
Captain: Paul Delport

Coach: Eugene Eloff
Captain: Alistair Hargreaves


Coach: Eric Sauls
Captain: John Smit

Coach: Jake White
Captain: Clyde Rathbone


Coach: Peter de Villiers
Captain: Paul Delport

Coach: Dawie Theron
Captain: Wian Liebenberg


I was privileged to have coached the U19 Junior Boks for four years and this article will be relevant to those players who made it into international sides.

We had two great results, one good and one bad one.

I will highlight the names of every player who became a Springbok, or earned international colours.


– Bismarck du Plessis (Springboks)
– Ruan Pienaar (Springboks)
– Antonie Claassen (France)

– Mahlatse Ralepelle (Springboks)
– Jano Vermaak (Springboks)
– Heinke van der Merwe (Springboks)
– Adriaan Strauss (Springboks)
– Pierre Spies (Springboks)
– Richardt Strauss (Ireland)

– Hilton Lobberts (Springboks)
– Francois Steyn (Springboks)
– Mahlatse Ralepelle (Springboks)

– Dewald Potgieter (Springboks)
– Francois Steyn (Springboks)

Many players kept on playing rugby – with about 40 percent going on to play Super Rugby and Currie Cup rugby and 45 percent played at smaller unions or club rugby abroad.

About 15 percent just stopped playing the game, which is a sad statistic. However, given all the players we have, it was maybe a realistic choice.

In conclusion, I hold the opinion that our country is blessed with some of the best young rugby players in the world.

The BIG question is why so few junior players are making it into the senior ranks and why do players simply quit playing or fade away?

This is always a difficult question to answer.

However, there are a few factors that one should take into consideration:
1. Competition for the top spot becomes harder
2. Some players are late developers
3. The system after junior rugby is not efficient enough to develop players and keep them in the mix
4. Players sustain rugby career-ending injuries
5. Players simply don’t get contracted

I do believe that rugby is going to go through a metamorphosis after the lockdown.

Unions are going to have less contracted players due to financial constraints and pressure.

Competitions will be revised and also change to keep the game lucrative for the unions to survive and exciting for supporters to follow and watch.

Let us get behind our schools, universities, clubs, unions and national teams when the game resumes after lockdown and support them in the unique manner our passionate supporters do.

Yes, let us get bums on the seats!

By Eugene Eloff

Other columns by Eugene Eloff

Sun Tzu’s art of coaching warfare
Evolve or become extinct

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