Junior Boks return to the international stage
NEWS: The Junior Springboks will return to international action as part of an exciting Under-20 Series, competing against the Six Nations’ U20 sides and Georgia.
The tournament will be staged in Italy from June 24 to July 12, it was confirmed by Six Nations Rugby on Wednesday.
Supported by World Rugby, the eight-nation tournament will be hosted by the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) with matches to be played across two venues, in Treviso and Verona, over a period of three weeks.
The absence of a World Rugby U20 Championship this year, the U20 Series will provide added opportunities for teams to test themselves against new opposition.
Commenting on the announcement, Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby Chairman, said: “U20 tournaments have proven to be a successful pathway for young talents in our unions to flourish, gain international experience and prepare for test rugby.
“Before the global World Rugby U20 Championship and Trophy return next year, we are delighted to support our unions and Six Nations Rugby in delivering the Under-20 Summer Series, a fantastic opportunity for promising rugby players to compete at the highest level.”
The Series teams are split into two groups of four based on World Rugby seedings, with South Africa grouped in a strong Pool A alongside current U20 Six Nations champions Ireland, as well as France, last winners of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, and England. Georgia, Scotland, Wales, and Italy are drawn in Pool B.
The Junior Boks will open their pool commitments against England on Friday, June 24, and that will be followed by their second match on Wednesday, June 29 against Ireland.
The South Africans will complete their pool fixtures on Tuesday, July 5 against France before playing a final cross-pool fixture one week later, on Tuesday, July 12, with their opponent to be determined according to the final standings.
Building up to the preparations for the forthcoming Summer Series in Italy, the SA Rugby Academy programme has been in full swing in Stellenbosch since April 19, where a squad of 36 players is based at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS).
Their programme included a number of training matches so far, against Western Province, the Stormers, Griquas, Cheetahs and most recently Georgia.
A final training game is also on the cards before Junior Bok coach, Bafana Nhleko, names his final travelling squad of 30 players for Italy early next month. He said they are very excited to play in the U20 Summer Series.
“We have done a lot of preparation work for the forthcoming Series in Italy, where we will play three of the world’s top Under-20 sides in France, Ireland and England,” said Nhleko.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for our players to test themselves against some of the best international age-group players and we are very much looking forward to this big challenge.”
The Junior Bok head coach explained the training outings against the Stormers, Georgia and local Currie Cup sides were arranged to expose the SA Rugby Academy players to a much higher level of intensity and physicality.
“We arranged the two games in Bloemfontein – with just a three-day rest period in-between – specifically that way to simulate the short turn-around time between games in Italy,” said Nhleko.
Last year, the Junior Boks won a four-team International U20 Series staged in a bio-secure environment in Stellenbosch, featuring Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay.
In 2019, the Junior Boks finished third to clinch the bronze medal behind winners France and runners up Australia at the last World Rugby U20 Championship, hosted by Argentina. The following three editions – in 2020, ’21 and ’22 – were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global showpiece is set to return to the rugby calendar next year, when France, champions in 2018 and 2019, will defend their title as the top U20 side in the world.
The pools and fixtures are (SA kick-off times):
Pool A (based at Payanini Center, Verona)
France, Ireland, England, South Africa
Round 1, June 24
17.00: Junior Boks v England
20.00: France v Ireland
Round 2, June 29
17.00: France v England
20.00: Junior Boks v Ireland
Round 3, July 5
17.00: Junior Boks v France
20.00: Ireland v England
Pool B (based at Stadio Di Monigo, Treviso)
Scotland, Wales, Italy, Georgia
Round 1, June 25
17.00: Scotland v Wales
20.00: Italy v Georgia
Round 2, June 30
17.00: Wales v Georgia
20.00: Scotland v Italy
Round 3, July 6
17.00: Scotland v Georgia
20.00: Italy v Wales
Cross-pool playoffs – July 12 (proposed kick-off times):
12.30: Match 1 (4th Pool A vs 4th Pool B)
15.00: Match 2 (3rd Pool A vs 3rd Pool B)
17.30: Match 3 (2nd Pool A vs 2nd Pool B)
20.00: Match 4 (1st Pool A vs 1st Pool B)