In the 10th part of a series, DYLAN JACK rewinds to the inaugural 2002 U21 World Championship and looks at what happened to the title-winning Junior Springboks.
Smith, who played at No 8 and lock at the tournament, made his Cheetahs debut in 2002. He would go on to become one of South Africa’s most consitant loose forwards, forming a dangerous back row with Danie Rossouw and Schalk Burger at the 2007 World Cup.
After taking the Cheetahs captaincy in 2006 and winning a British & Irish Lions series and Tri-Nations title in 2009, Smith was impacted by an achilles-tendon injury in the latter stages of his career. He briefly retired from the game in 2013, but made a stunning return to the field with Toulon and helped the French club win the European Champions Cup and Top 14 in 2015 and was recalled to the Springbok squad in 2014.
Smith then had a short stint in Japan with Toyota Verblitz and retired from all rugby in 2017.
Wannenburg, the first-choice blindside flank for the Junior Springboks, would make his Super Rugby debut in 2002. He would go on to be a mainstay in a Vodacom Bulls team that won three Super Rugby titles and five Currie Cups. Wannenburg also became the first Bulls player to reach the 100-cap landmark and set a franchise record of 99 consecutive games.
On the Test scene, Wannenburg earned his first cap for the Springboks in 2002 and would play a further 19 times, but narrowly missed out on selection for the World Cup-winning squad in 2007. He moved to Ulster in 2010, which was followed by France stints with Oyonnax and Castres, before he moved to the USA and played for Denver and Austin.
Wannenburg retired in 2018 and has since gone into coaching in the USA.
Barnard’s excellent performances at tighthead prop had him named as U21 Player of the Year for 2002. Domestically, he played for Western Province and the Stormers and was also loaned to the Cats.
In 2005, Barnard moved overseas and signed for the Northampton Saints. During his time in the Premiership, he was named in an England Elite Player squad, qualifying through his mother, but he did not make a Test appearance. After Northampton were relegated, he joined Wasps, where he won a Premiership title in 2008, but his time in London was hit by injury. Barnard then moved to France with Brive in 2009 and retired in 2015.
After studying at University of Limoges, Barnard currently works as a sports psychologist in France.
Hopp made just one appearance in the 2002 tournament, as a substitute against Romania. The Heidelburg-born player’s domestic career has mostly centred around the SWD Eagles as he has had two stints with the side – first between 2002 and 2003, and then between 2011 and 2019.
In 2005, Hopp moved to the EP Elephants and then played for Griquas in 2006. Most recently, he has played club rugby for Evergreens in the SWD Premiership.
Following the 2002 U21 World Cup, Steenkamp would go on to have a highly successful provincial and Test career. Domestically, he played for the Cheetahs and Bulls, winning three Super Rugby titles and a Currie Cup with the latter. He then moved to France, where he would win the Top 14 with Toulouse, before finishing his career at Stade Francais.
On the Test scene, Steenkamp made his Springbok debut in 2004 and was part of Jake White’s 2007 World Cup-winning squad. His excellent performances in 2010 earned him SA Rugby Player of the Year.
After his retirement, Steenkamp completed his business degree with Bryan Habana through the Toulouse Business School. He also runs front-row coaching clinics in France.
Gerber had a long provincial career, which included stints with the Cheetahs, Leeds and Rovigo in Italy, as well as two separate stints with the Bulls.
The prop’s final move came with the Sharks in 2013, before he retired from all rugby. He then took up a role as an events manager for Ultimate Sports Nutrition.
Gilfillan played the first two games of the SA U21’s campaign, against Romania and France.
Domestically, he played as a lock for the Cats between 2004 and 2006 and the Lions in 2007.
Another future 2007 World Cup winner, Botha played most of his domestic career with the Bulls, where he would be a major part of their Super Rugby and Currie Cup-winning teams. The hooker also played overseas for Harlequins and Toulouse.
On the Test scene, Botha made his Springbok debut in 2005, replacing captain John Smit against Australia. He would go on to win 14 Test caps before retiring in 2013.
After retirement, he has served as a director of rugby at Overkruin High School and as a scrum consultant at the Bulls, while he has also ventured into business as a sales manager and business unit manager.
After starting his career at the Pumas, Geldenhuys would move to Italy with Viadana in 2005 and would go on to become a stalwart for Italian rugby, qualifying for the national team on the residency rule.
In his eight-year Test career, Geldenhuys made a total of 67 appearances for Italy, representing them at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups and captaining them five times.
He retired from Test rugby in 2016 and from all rugby in 2017.
Cronje was the first-choice No 8 for the Springbok U21 side in 2002, having already made his provincial debut for the Bulls at that time. After six years in Pretoria, Cronje joined the Lions in 2007, before moving to France. There, he would play 100 games for Biarritz, before finishing his career with Racing Metro.
Internationally, Cronje made his Springbok debut in 2004 against Ireland and won 32 Test caps, his last coming against Namibia in 2007.
Windpomp van Rooyen
Aptly named ‘Windpomp’ (windmill) played all five games for the Springbok U21 side in 2002.
His domestic career included stints with the Cheetahs, Griquas and Griffons.
Barnard started all five games of the U21 tournament at openside flank, scoring three tries.
He then played for the Sharks in their 2003 Super Rugby campaign, before moving back to Joburg to play for the Cats and Lions until 2008. Bernard then moved to France, where he played for Mont-de-Marsan and Grenoble.
Bernard retired from rugby in 2015 and currently works as a dealer for Humantecar.
The final member of the 2007 World Cup-winning crew, Burger would go on to become one of the greatest-ever Springboks, playing 86 Tests and representing South Africa at four World Cups between 2003 and 2015.
Domestically, the loose forward played most of his career for Western Province and the Stormers, winning over 100 caps and captaining the team. He also had overseas stints with Suntory Sungoliath in Japan and Saracens, where he won the Premiership and European Champions Cup.
Since stepping away from rugby after leaving Saracens, Burger has returned to his family’s wine farm in the Western Cape and served as a pundit on SuperSport.
Photo:Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images