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Under-20 Rugby Championship, Round Three - teams and predictions

PREVIEW: It is all to play for in the final round of the inaugural Under-20 Rugby Championship at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina on Sunday.


New Zealand top the standings on seven points (from a win and a draw), with Argentina second (five points – a win and a loss), hosts Australia third (four – a win and a loss) and South Africa last (three – a draw and a loss).

The Baby Blacks are in a position of power and a win against Australia on Sunday will secure the title.

Los Pumitas could still win if they beat South Africa and Australia beat New Zealand.

The prospects of the Joeys and Baby Boks are a lot more complicated.

The Aussies must win with a bonus-point and deny the Baby Blacks any points. They also need the Baby Boks to beat Los Pumitas.

South Africa require a bonus-point win and hope Australia get a win without a bonus point against New Zealand, who also should not get a bonus point.


* Meanwhile Zachary Porthen resumes the captaincy of a reshuffled South African Under-20 starting line-up for Sunday.

Porthen was not considered for the previous encounter with Australia because of a hand injury, but he is back in the starting line-up to lead a Junior Bok team showing a number of changes for their third and final fixture.

Only four players in the starting team will run out in the same positions they played against Australia – JF van Heerden (lock), who captained the SA Under-20 team against Australia, Tiaan Jacobs (No.8), Litelihle Bester (left wing) and Jurenzo Julius (outside centre).

Another three players will again start, but in different positions – Bathobele Hlekani (flank/lock), as well as Josh Boulle and Phillip Albert van Niekerk (utility backs).


Amongst the forward there is a new-look front row consisting of props Ruan Swart, Porthen and hooker Juan Smal.

Van Heerden forms the tweaked lock combination with Thomas Dyer, while Hlekani, Sibabalwe Mahashe (flanks) and Jacobs (No.8) form the loose trio.

In the reshuffled backline, Bruce Sherwood moves from his regular midfield position to fullback, Joel Leotlela comes in for Boulle at right wing, with Boulle shifting to inside centre. Van Niekerk moves from inside centre to flyhalf and the scrumhalf jersey is handed to Ezekiel Ngobeni with Asad Moos now playing off the bench.

Junior Bok head coach Bafana Nhleko said the team wants to show an improvement in their performance and play to their potential, which was not the case in their draw with New Zealand and defeat to Australia.

“We all realise the quality of play in the two previous two matches were not up to our standards and it’s the small margins that keep hurting us,” said Nhleko.

“Growth is about applying the learnings and I hope we can showcase the ability we have within the group.”

According to the SA U20 coach, his team wants to shake off their frustrating inconsistency and error rate.

“Up to now we’ve not been able to string together significant passages of play to get rewards, thus releasing pressure for the opposition and we have not managed the game well, when we have taken the lead in both games.

“Despite those shortcomings we still managed to keep ourselves in contention right until the end of both games, which proves our fighting spirit and parts of our ability.

“We have worked hard to rectify those areas and have prepared well, now the players must go out and show what they can do. Argentina demonstrated their ability against Australia especially at set piece and they, just like us, would want to bounce back from their disappointment against New Zealand, so we must show the right attitude to meet that challenge,” added Nhleko.

* In the late game on Sunday Australia U20 coach Nathan Grey named Reds playmaker Harry McLaughlin-Phillips in his starting line up to tackle New Zealand.

McLaughlin-Phillips’ inclusion is one of eight changes to the starting XV that faced South Africa.

Captain Toby Macpherson and vice-captain Ronan Leahy once again reprise their starting roles at lock and inside centre alongside front row trio Jack Barrett, Ottavio Tuipulotu and Nick Bloomfield.

Lock Harvey Cordukes pairs with Brumbies teammate Macpherson in the engine room with Aden Ekanayake returning to partner Dane Sawers and Jack Harley in the back row.

Force scrumhalf Doug Philipson will steer the ship alongside McLaughlin-Phillips with Rebels centre Divad Palu elevated to the starting XV outside Leahy.

Queensland duo Will McCulloch and Xavier Rubens return to the match-day squad as starting wings while Brumbies flyer Angus Staniforth shifts to fullback.

Bryn Edwards, Lington Ieli and Tevita Alatini offer front row cover with Ben Daniels and Ben Di Staso rounding out the forward finishers.

“It was difficult to choose a side from the 33 players who’ve been involved in this campaign have worked tirelessly and I’d back any player to step up if required,” Grey said.

“This tournament has been an excellent opportunity for players to put their hand up and show what they can do in the gold jersey.

“There’s been significant improvement between games one and two and we want to step up again in our final game against New Zealand.

“It’s our last hit out before the upcoming U20 World Championship and our last game on home soil this year.”

All the Round Three teams and predictions follow below


Sunday, May 12

South Africa v Argentina
(Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina – Kick-off: 13.30; 05.30 SA time; 00.30 Argentina time; 03.30 GMT)


@rugby365com: South Africa by five points


South Africa: 15 Bruce Sherwood, 14 Joel Leotlela, 13 Jurenzo Julius, 12 Joshua Boulle, 11 Litelihle Bester, 10 Philip-Albert van Niekerk, 9 Ezekiel Ngobeni, 8 Tiaan Jacobs, 7 Bathobele Hlekani, 6 Sibabalwe Mahashe, 5 JF van Heerden, 4 Thomas Dyer, 3 Zachary Porthen (captain), 2 Juan Smal, 1 Ruan Swart.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Bester, 17 Liyema Ntshanga, 18 Casper Badenhorst, 19 Thabang Mphafi, 20 Divan Fuller, 21 Asad Moos, 22 Thurlon Williams, 23 JC Mars.

Argentina: TBC

Referee: Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand) & Mike Winter (New Zealand)
TMO: Richard Kelly (New Zealand)

Australia v New Zealand
(Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina – Kick-off: 15.30; 17.30 NZ time; 05.30 GMT)


@rugby365com: New Zealand by 12 points


Australia: 15 Angus Staniforth, 14 Xavier Rubens, 13 Divad Palu, 12 Ronan Leahy, 11 Will McCulloch, 10 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, 9 Doug Philipson, 8 Jack Harley, 7 Dane Sawers, 6 Aden Ekanayake, 5 Harvey Cordukes, 4 Toby Macpherson (captain), 3 Nick Bloomfield, 2 Ottavio Tuipulotu, 1 Jack Barrett.
Replacements: 16 Bryn Edwards, 17 Lington Ieli, 18 Tevita Alatini, 19 Ben Daniels, 20 Ben Di Staso, 21 Hwi Sharples, 22 Joey Fowler, 23 Boston Fakafanua.

New Zealand: 15 Isaac Hutchinson, 14 King Maxwell, 13 Xavi Taele, 12 Tofuka Paongo, 11 Stanley Solomon, 10 Rico Simpson, 9 Dylan Pledger, 8 Malachi Wrampling, 7 Johnny Lee, 6 Tristyn Cook, 5 Liam Jack, 4 Tom Allen, 3 Joshua Smith, 2 Vernon Bason (captain), 1 Will Martin.
Replacements: 16 Manumaua Letiu, 17 Sika Pole, 18 Kurene Luamanuvae, 19 Andrew Smith, 20 Jeremiah Avei-Collins, 21 Ben O’Donovan, 22 Sam Coles , 23 Aki Tuivailala.

Referee: Nehuen Jauri Rivero (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby (South Africa) & James Palmer (Australia)
TMO: Richard Kelly (New Zealand)


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