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Rugby Championship U20, Round One - teams and predictions

PREVIEW: The Rugby Championship for Under-20 teams, to be played at the Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina on Australia’s eastern seaboard, kicks off on Thursday.

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It is the inaugural Championship and the junior teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina will battle for supremacy in the Southern Hemisphere’s first U20 tournament.

“After months of preparation and planning it is wonderful that we are ready for kick-off,” SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris said.

“The Sunshine Coast Stadium is ready to host the Championship and with free entry for the public, we look forward to welcoming everyone.

“SANZAAR encourages rugby fans to support the Championship and the amazing young talent that will be on display.

“The three match days, all with double-headers, will feature the stars of the future and perhaps the next generation of Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas.”

Playing South Africa first-up will be a formidable scene-setter for the New Zealand side.

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All Black Jono Gibbes has returned to New Zealand to coach the side that has struggled in recent years to make an impact at the annual World Rugby Under-20 championship.

The game would be a typical New Zealand-South Africa contest.

New Zealand would be looking for at least parity up front.

“We have to make sure we win that forward battle,” Gibbes said.

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“That set piece stuff is going to be the rock for us.”

Gibbes said that as a new side, they were aware that things would not be perfect from the start and that combinations might not gel, but he was looking for how the players reacted when something didn’t go right.

“We have to stay tight and solve a problem together.

“That is going to be the key for me.”

Junior Bok coach Bafana Nhleko said his group had a good week training week in the build-up to the historic Sanzaar tournament.

“The medical and strength and conditioning staff did a sterling job to ensure our group settled in as quickly as possible after our long-haul flight from South Africa, and our preparations went well this week,” said Nhleko.

“The players are now eager to put in a good effort on the field against a top-quality opponent.”

The rivalry and tradition between South Africa and New Zealand also mean a lot of pride is at stake in this opening-round encounter, but Nhleko also said his players have to be aware of the Kiwi threats all over the field.

“We all know about the tremendous rivalry, and the all-round threat of New Zealand is a well-known fact,” said Nhleko.

“Especially the physical battle will be huge between two teams that pride themselves on physicality. The main message has been to focus on ourselves and to drive our behaviour.

“So, as much as there is a lot at stake in this match and we are chasing a good performance, as a group, we are also eager to continue to learn and use this tournament as a great opportunity to further develop as a team.”

Hosts Australia and Argentina will clash in the other game of the opening-round doubleheader.

Australia has high hopes of taking out the inaugural title, with captain Toby Macpherson declaring their intent to get “hands on the trophy”.

Macpherson said his side would “strive for the top” across the games against Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.

“We went across to New Zealand and played them a couple of times but to get a tournament like this prior to the World Cup on our shores is really exciting,” Macpherson said.

“All the boys are up for it and keen to put our best foot forward with performances out there for the Australian public.”

The new tournament comprises a round-robin format where all teams will play each other once and the top team after the three-round, six-match tournament will be declared as winner of the first U20 Rugby Championship.

All of Thursday’s teams and predictions are below

South Africa v New Zealand
(Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina – Kick-off: 17.00; 09.00 SA time; 07.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: New Zealand by eight points

Teams

South Africa: 15 Michail Damon, 14 Joel Leotlela, 13 Jurenzo Julius, 12 Bruce Sherwood, 11 Litelihle Bester, 10 Tylor Sefoor, 9 Asad Moos, 8 Tiaan Jacobs, 7 Bathobele Hlekani, 6 Sibabalwe Mahashe, 5 Adam de Waal, 4 Thomas Dyer, 3 Zachary Porthen (captain), 2 Juan Smal, 1 Ruan Swart.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Bester, 17 Mbasa Maqubela, 18 Reno Hirst, 19 JF van Heerden, 20 Thabang Mphafi, 21 Ezekiel Ngobeni,22 Thurlon William, 23 Joshua Boulle

New Zealand: 15 Isaac Hutchinson, 14 Frank Vaenuku, 13 Aki Tuivailala, 12 Xavi Taele, 11 Stanley Solomon, 10 Cooper Grant, 9 Ben O’Donovan, 8 Malachi Wrampling, 7 Johnny Lee, 6 Andrew Smith, 5 Liam Jack, 4 Tom Allen, 3 Joshua Smith, 2 Vernon Bason (captain), 1 Will Martin.
Replacements: 16 A-One Lolofie, 17 Senio Sanele, 18 Kurene Luamanuvae, 19 Cam Christie, 20 Mosese Bason, 21 Dylan Pledger, 22 Rico Simpson, 23 Josh Whaanga.

Referee: Jordan Kaminski
Assistant referees: Nehuen Juari Rivero, Jeremy Markey
TMO: Brett Cronan

Australia v Argentina
(Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina – Kick-off: 19.00; 06.00 Argentina time; 09.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Australia by 12 points

Teams

Australia: 15 Shane Wilcox, 14 Will Mcculloch, 13 Jarrah Mcleod, 12 Ronan Leahy, 11 Xavier Rubens, 10 Joey Fowler, 9 Doug Philipson, 8 Jack Harley, 7 Joe Liddy, 6 Aden Ekanayake, 5 Harvey Cordukes, 4 Toby Macpherson (captain), 3 Tevita Alatini, 2 Bryn Edwards, 1 Jack Barrett.
Replacements: 16 Nathaniel Tiitii, 17 Tavi Tuipulotu, 18 Nick Bloomfield, 19 Ben Daniels, 20 Ben Di Staso, 21 Hwi Sharples, 22 Cullen Gray, 23 Angus Staniforth.

Argentina: 15 Benjamín Elizalde, 14 Franco Rossetto, 13 Faustino Sánchez Valarolo, 12 Tomás Bocco, 11 Valentín Soler Filoty, 10 Santino Di Lucca, 9 Tomás Di Biase, 8 Juan Pedro Bernasconi, 7 Santos Fernández De Oliveira, 6 Juan Penoucos, 5 Elías Efraín, 4 Álvaro García Iandolino, 3 Tomás Rapetti, 2 Vivas, Juan Manuel, 1 Diego Correa.
Relacements: 16 Marcos Camerlinckx, 17 Gonzalo Gargallo Bazán, 18 Gael Galván, 19 Luciano Asevedo, 20 Julián Rossi, 21 Genaro Podestá, 22 Mateo Fossati, 23 Timothy Silva.

Referee: Griffin Colby
Assistant referees: George Myers, James Palmer
TMO: Brett Cronan

 

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