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Familair faces in SA Academy squad as U20 Rugby Champs draws nearer

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Four capped Junior Springboks are amongst a group of 35 players who will attend this year’s SA Rugby Academy Programme to continue preparations for the international season.


It includes the inaugural Under-20 Rugby Championship in Australia and the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.

The talented group of rugby players will assemble from Monday, February 4 at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport and will be together intermittently until the end of June.

Ten players return for a second stint with the SA Rugby Academy programme, including four who represented the Boks in last year’s World Rugby event in Cape Town.

The four capped Junior Boks in the squad are Zachary Porthen (prop, Western Province), JF van Heerden (lock, Bulls), Litelihle Bester and Jurenzo Julius (both centres from the Sharks).

The Academy is one of the key pillars in preparing the top juniors in the country make the step up to the SA Under-20 squad.

The well-structured programme was launched seven years ago and aims to balance formal education with high-performance training and player welfare.


In announcing the group of Academy players, which consists of 21 forwards and 14 backs, Bafana Nhleko emphasised that the door is not closed to players who might have missed out.

A further eight players have been identified, but were not considered for the initial part of the programme because of injury.

According to the Junior Bok head coach, the provincial U20 and U19 competitions, as well as the Currie Cup, Varsity Cup and the EPD programme have given them a very good idea of the wider group of players to consider for the Academy intake.

“We are pleased with the composition of the group and whilst we already started with the planning process last year, and continued with it into January, when we held some position specific and alignment camps, the hard work will now start in earnest,” said Nhleko.


“Our alignment and position specific camps gave us a very good opportunity to engage early with the players, as well as their coaches and conditioning staff.

“We could present to them what we expect from those selected and what they would need to do to improve on so that they can stay in consideration for the Academy Programme.”

Nhleko also mentioned they will continue to monitor a wider group of players and engage with coaches at provincial, universities, and clubs to ensure they track all the players in the system.

A number of training matches against senior provincial outfits are part of the plan to assist the Junior Boks in their preparations for the season, with South Africa again hosting the World Rugby U20 Championship for a second successive year in Cape Town during June and July, when the SA U20s will be pooled with England, Argentina, and Fiji in Group C.

The Junior Boks finished third last year after beating England in their bronze medal play-off game in the Athlone Stadium, while France defended their U20 world title successfully.

The 2024 SA Rugby Academy squad:

Props: Casper Badenhorst (Bulls), Ronan Dutton (Lions), Reno Hirst (Lions), Mbasa Maquabela (Bulls), Zachary Porthen (Western Province)**, Ruan Swart (Bulls).

Hookers: Luca Bakkes (Western Province)*, CJ Erasmus (Western Province), Juan Smal (Bulls).

Locks: Keanu Coetzee (Bulls), Ulrich van der Westhuizen (Sharks), Thomas Dyer (Sharks), Jaco Grobbelaar (Bulls), Bathobele Hlekani (Sharks), JF van Heerden (Bulls)**.

Loose forwards: JJ Theron (Bulls), Sibabalwe Mahashe (Lions)*, Divan Fuller (Western Province), Sphephelo Mbonambi (Sharks), Thabang Mphafi (Lions)*, Wandile Mlaba (Western Province – will attend the programme intermittently).

Scrumhalves: Hassiem Pead (Lions), Ezekiel Ngubene ( Western Province).

Flyhalves: Liam Koen (Bulls), Tyler Sefoor (Cheetahs)*, Thurlon Williams (Lions)*.

Centres: Litelihle Bester (Sharks)**, Joshua Boulle (Western Province), Jurenzo Julius (Sharks)**, Philip-Albert van Niekerk (Bulls).

Outside backs: Jayden Bantom (Bulls), Michail Damon (Bulls), Alfondso Isaacs (Bulls), Joel Leotlela (Western Province & SA Sevens)*, JC Mars (Western Province).

* Denotes players selected for the 2023 Academy Programme

** Denotes players selected for the 2023 Academy Programme and Junior Boks

The following group of players are presently injured and were not considered for the initial phase of the SA Rugby Academy programme: Nicolas Snyman (prop, Sharks), Ethan Bester (hooker, Sharks), Adam de Waal, Andre Goedhals (locks, both Western Province), Asad Moos (scrumhalf, Western Province), Bruce Sherwood, Grant de Jager (centres, both Western Province), Gino Cupido (outside back, Western Province).

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