Coach Bafana Nhleko has named a strong Junior Springbok lineup with Sacha Mngomezulu as captain for SA’s opening clash of the U20 Six Nations Summer Series with England in Verona on Friday.
Mngomezulu, who will start at flyhalf for the SA U20s, lifted the Vodacom United Rugby Championship trophy on Saturday after helping the Stormers beat the Vodacom Bulls at Cape Town Stadium.
Following an SA Rugby Academy programme of almost three months at Stellenbosch, which formed the basis for Junior Boks’ tournament preparations, Nhleko said they are ready for what will be a demanding tournament, starting with a testing battle against England on Friday.
“Two years ago, there was no schools and age-group rugby and last year we played in a strictly controlled environment in our home-based international series because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Nhleko.
“Now we have a group of players that will sing the national anthem before playing for their country, for the first time. Exposure to international rugby is a great step up in their development and their future rugby pathway.
“That’s the exciting part and these guys have started on a great journey, but we are under no illusion as to what tough battles await us over the next three weeks, starting with England.
— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) June 23, 2022
“I believe we are well prepared, but Friday’s match will demand a huge effort because we are competing against teams that are used to playing at this level on a regular basis. We must back up the positive attitude and energy with a good application of our game principles and fundamentals from the start,” added Nhleko.
After their opener against England on Friday, the Junior Boks will face against reigning Six Nations U20 Grand Slam champions Ireland and France in quick succession.
Eight countries are in action in the Summer Series – the Six Nations sides as well as South Africa and Georgia – split into two groups of four, with each side playing three pool matches before a cross-pool match to decide the winner.
All 16 matches will take place in Italy, with Verona’s Payanini Center and Stadio Di Monigo in Treviso hosting all the exciting action.
According to the tournament rules, the match-day squad will consist of 26 players instead of the usual 23, meaning the coaches will be able to use all 11 players on the replacements bench.
Junior Springboks – 15 Duran Koevort, 14 Donovan Don, 13 Ethan James, 12 Carlton Banies, 11 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 10 Sacha Mngomezulu, 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Siya Ningiza, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Connor Evans, 3 Corne Weilbach, 2 Lukhanyo Vokozela, 1 Lamla Nunu.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Lange, 17 Juann Else, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 Louw Nel, 21 Imad Khan, 22 Compion von Ludwig, 23 Latica Nela, 24 Merwe Olivier, 25 Paul de Villiers, 26 Gcino Mdletshe.