Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko has named Lions flank Sasko Ndlovu as captain for the opening clash in the U20 international series with Uruguay in Stellenbosch on Friday.
No less than seven players in the starting team represented the SA Schools and SA Schools A sides in 2019, but with no junior international rugby in 2020, all Nhleko’s selections for this match, which kicks off at 3pm at the Markötter Stadium, will debut for South Africa at U20 level.
Ndlovu is among them, with Tyler Bocks (centre), Izan Esterhuizen (No 8), Dylan de Leeuw (lock), Raynard Roets (lock), Blaine Golden (prop) and Jacques Goosen (hooker) all former teammates of the flank.
Nhleko indicated that this match-day squad were selected with their pending matches against Argentina and Georgia taken into consideration, while their sole focus has been the first match of the campaign.
‘We decided on these combinations for a number of reasons,’ said Nhleko.
‘There is a short turn-around between matches and player management will be important, so we will need fresh legs against Argentina early in the week. A number of players are earmarked to get a first start then.
‘This starting team will be match ready. Many of them formed part of the SA Rugby Academy that played a number of matches in recent weeks, and they know and understand each other, which was an important part of our thinking.
‘It will be important for us to get a good start to set the tone and standard and these combinations should be able to provide us with that,’ he added.
Ndlovu, a former Northwood High School learner who represented the Sharks at Youth Week level, said the opportunity to get back into top-class action, will be a huge motivating factor for the squad.
‘We are facing the best Uruguay can offer and will need to respond accordingly,’ said Ndlovu.
‘Our guys are really hungry to play. We want to go out there and represent our country and make them proud of us. We are defending their honour. We have been training very hard for this and the time has come, thankfully, for us to apply that on the field.’
Tournament rules allow for squads to have all their non-starting players on the bench; however, a front row must be nominated before the match and only eight players can be replaced in total.
The Junior Boks will play Argentina on Wednesday, 23 June and Georgia on Monday, 28 June. The tournament concludes with a last round of matches on Saturday, 3 July, when the top-two sides and the bottom-two teams will play each other, respectively.
— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) June 16, 2021
Junior Springboks – 15 Quan Horn, 14 Canaan Moodie, 13 Ethan James, 12 Tyler Bocks, 11 Curwin Gertse, 10 Brandon Wilkie, 9 Bobby Alexander, 8 Izan Esterhuizen, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 Sasko Ndluvo (c), 5 Dylan de Leeuw, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 Blaine Golden, 2 Jacques Goosen, 1 Nolan Pienaar.
Subs (from): Andre-Hugo Venter, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Corne Weilbach (nominated front row), Simon Miller, Rynard Mouton, Siyambuka Ningiza, George Cronje, Bradley Davids, Kian Meadon, Mnqobi Mkhize, Dalvon Blood.