The Junior Springboks are determined to prove their critics wrong at the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina, writes DYLAN JACK.
The Junior Boks jetted out to Rosario on Wednesday morning, where they will face Scotland, Georgia and New Zealand in the pool stages of the tournament on 4, 8 and 12 June respectively.
Coach Chean Roux was confident his charges could get through to the playoffs.
‘Scotland are going to be tough, so hopefully we get off to a good start there,’ Roux said. ‘We know what to expect from Georgia, they are going to want to slow the game down and focus on the scrums. If our confidence is up, we can beat New Zealand. They have not beaten us in the last four tournaments. If we get past those three, anything is possible.
‘What makes this squad unique is that it has the biggest number of players that are studying at the moment. We don’t have the big-name players that have come through the school ranks, such as a Curwin Bosch or Wandisile Simelane. This group is coachable and highly intelligent.’
As U20 squads go, this has to be one of the more unheralded that South Africa has fielded in an U20 Championship. There is no star playmaker, at least not at the level of a Damian Willemse or Handré Pollard. Neither are there too many players in the mould of the Kriel twins, Dan and Jesse, or Jan Serfontein, who promised to become the finest midfielders of their generation.
The only top-level experience in the squad comes from captain Phendulani Buthelezi and lock JJ van der Mescht, who were heavily involved for the Sharks in the early stages of their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, as well as Blitzboks youngster Angelo Davids.
Much will also rest on the shoulders of prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye, centre Rickus Pretorius and flyhalf David Coetzer, who were all a part of last year’s U20 squad.
The team came in for plenty of criticism for – results-wise – an average preseason, which saw them lose to Championship hosts Argentina in Stellenbosch, and slump to a heavy defeat against an England U20 side missing plenty of key players on their overseas tour.
There were small positives, such as the last-minute comeback win against Wales, and the fact that they already have one over the Georgians, who they will meet again in the group stage of the Championship.
However, if there is one message that came out of the team’s capping ceremony on Monday evening, it was that this group believes they will become the country’s first winners since 2012.
‘Personally, I am a big believer in myself,’ Buthelezi said. ‘When I believe I can achieve something, nine out of 10 times I actually go out there and achieve it. That is the sort of belief I want to instil in this team. We are a great bunch of players and human beings. If we can go out there and focus and believe we can go all the way, I certainly see us doing that.
‘We prepared really well in what has been a tough four months on the training field, and we have done everything we can as players as far as our preparation is concerned. So it is now a matter of going out there, expressing ourselves and trying to make the country proud.’
Junior Springboks captain Phendulani Buthelezi on his leadership style. pic.twitter.com/jOsgmipuzH
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) May 27, 2019