WP's De Villiers to skipper Junior Boks
NEWS: Paul de Villiers and Katlego Letebele will return for their second stint with the Under-20 South Africa squad, this time as captain and vice-captain of team for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, which will kick off in Cape Town, Paarl and Stellenbosch later this month.
The Junior Bok squad for the global showpiece – returning to the calendar for the first time since 2019 – was announced on Friday. De Villiers and Letebele represented South Africa in the Six Nations U20 Series in Italy last year.
Junior Springbok head coach, Bafana Nhleko, included Zachary Porthen, who captained the SA Schools side last year, alongside two more of his U18 teammates from 2022 in Litelihle Bester and Johan van Heerden.
Nhleko also roped in Blitzbok speedster Masande Mtshali, who made his debut for the national sevens team earlier this season and played in four tournaments on the World Rugby Sevens Series.
“This selection is a great testimony of SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development programme paying dividends and I’m very excited to take these players into the tournament,” said Nhleko.
“I believe we have selected a quality group of players with a good balance within the squad. There were guys who pushed hard during the SA Rugby Academy phase but didn’t make the final squad, they can easily slot in if needed as they know our structures and how we want to play.
“I would like to congratulate the players who were selected, but also stress that the real hard work starts now – it’s a massive task to play in a world championship and even bigger privilege to be playing at home, with the challenge comes a big responsibility.
“We realise there will be added pressure because we’re playing at home, but we embrace that as a positive. We have a wonderful opportunity to play in front of our family and friends and in familiar conditions and we need to make the most of it.”
The pool rounds of the tournament are scheduled for June 24 and 29, and July 4, with the two playoff rounds on July 9 and 14, when the final will take place at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town.
Under-20 South Africa squad:
Props: Corne Lavagna (Bulls), Dian Heunis (Sharks), Mawande Mdanda (Bulls), Phatu Ganyane (Sharks), Zachary Porthen (Western Province).
Hookers: Juann Else (Bulls), SJ Kotze (Lions).
Locks: Coetzee le Roux (Sharks), Tiaan Wessels (Lions), Johan van Heerden (Bulls).
Loose forwards: Abulele Ndabambi (Bulls), Corne Beets (Bulls), Gcinokuhle Mdletshe (Bulls), Ghudian van Reenen (Bulls), Jannes Potgieter (Sharks) Paul de Villiers (captain, Western Province).
Scrumhalves: Imad Khan (Western Province), Neil le Roux (Bulls).
Flyhalves: Jean Smith (Sharks), Sam Francis (Lions).
Centres: Damian Markus (Western Province), Ethan Hooker (Sharks), Jurenzo Julius (Sharks), Katlego Letebele (Bulls), Litelihle Bester (Sharks).
Outside backs: Masande Mtshali (SA Sevens contracted), Michael Annies (Cheetahs), Quewin Nortje (Bulls), Hakeem Kunene (Sharks), Regan Izaks (Bulls).
World Rugby U20 Championship pool fixtures:
Saturday, June 24:
South Africa v Georgia
(Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT; 21.00 GET)
Thursday, June 29:
South Africa v Italy
(Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT; 15.00 Italy time)
Tuesday, July 4:
South Africa v Argentina
(Athlone Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT; 14.00 ART)