SA Schools coach Chris October expects an improved challenge from England in their first U18 international match in August.
October led the SA Schools side to an unbeaten run last year against France, Wales and England. The South African schoolboy squad has retained nine players from the talented class of 2012, which puts them in a strong position to repeat their achievement.
However, England are believed to be a stronger side this season as they have benefited from a specialised age-group development system. This was proven when they surged to first place in this year's U18 European Championship in France.
October acknowledges England's threat.
'I had a chat with last year's England U18 coach, and he told me to watch out for their team this year,' October told SARugbymag.co.za. 'They have a development system that stretches from U13 level through to U18s. He said that their U17s of 2012 were a strong group of players, which was evident in the way they won this year's U18 European Championship.
'Take nothing away from France and Wales ... they'll be tough too. But facing England first up is going to be a big challenge for the boys. They will have to be at their best to come out on tops.'
October remains confident, though, and believes last year's success will motivate his players.
'We're lucky to have a core group of players,' said October. 'We will have leaders in the squad and they will have to step up and guide their team-mates around them. We also have a similar coaching team, so there's plenty of continuity.
'We have to make a strong statement against these international teams from a young age. We need to show them that touring South Africa isn't easy ... we need them to fear South African teams whenever they play us at home.'
The SA Schools squad will gather at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on 4 August.
They meet England in Cape Town on 9 August, France in George on 13 August and Wales in Wellington on 17 August. An Italian U18 squad will also feature in a series against the Western Province, Boland and SWD Craven Week teams.
By Gareth Duncan
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images
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