The Junior Springboks squad for the U20 Six Nations Summer Series in Italy has been announced, with six players who have Vodacom United Rugby Championship experience named among the group of 30.
The Baby Boks will return to international action as part of an exciting U20 summer series, competing against the Six Nations’ U20 sides and Georgia in the tournament that will be staged in Italy from 24 June to 12 July.
Vodacom Bulls outside back Canan Moodie, his franchise teammate Reinhardt Ludwig, Stormers utility back Sacha Mngomezulu and lock Connor Evans, as well as the Lions duo of scrumhalf Nico Steyn and loose forward Ruan Venter, have all gained some valuable URC experience over the past few months.
They have also featured in the Currie Cup, while Mngomezulu, Ludwig, Moodie and Steyn, along with Ethan James and Siya Ningiza, all played for the Junior Springboks in last year’s successful U20 International Series in South Africa.
Sharks scrumhalf Bradley Davids, who also played for the SA U20s in 2021, was not considered for selection due to injury.
Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko said he was pleased with the composition of the squad. He had been working with a 36-player SA academy squad since Easter at their base in Stellenbosch, before trimming the group to 30 players.
“I believe we have a well-balanced and competitive squad,” said Nhleko. “We are grateful for the domestic U20 competition earlier this year that gave us an opportunity to see the players and select the academy group.
“We have a few guys who have gained valuable experience in the senior ranks, as well as a number of returnees from last year’s programme.
“Putting in the hard work on the training field is one thing, but actually playing in real matches, especially against experienced senior players, provides even better preparation,” he added.
“It was good in terms of seeing how we handle pressure situations and execute our plans against highly organised teams, hence the training matches against the likes of the Stormers, WP, Griquas, and Cheetahs, to test the players in proper match conditions.
“Apart from working with the players in what was a very talented academy squad, we wanted to give the players an opportunity to see how they handle the quality, intensity and physicality of playing against a number of Currie Cup teams, which is a step up.
“The Six Nations teams have the benefit of regular international competition between themselves, so other than our intensive high performance programme, we had to find a way of offering quality game time to our group.”
A final training exercise against Maties in Stellenbosch is planned for Thursday, and the squad will remain at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport until their departure to Italy in two weeks’ time.
The Junior Boks will open their season commitments against England on Friday, 24 June, followed by a clash on Wednesday, 29 June with Ireland.
The South Africans will complete their pool fixtures on Tuesday, 5 July against France before playing a final cross-pool fixture one week later, on Tuesday, 12 July, with their opponent to be determined according to the final standings.
Full Springbok U20 squad:
Props: Lamla Nunu (WP), Corne Lavagna (Bulls), Juann Else (Bulls), Corne Weilbach (WP), Sebastian Lombard (Bulls), Sivu Mabece (Bulls).
Hookers: Lukhanyo Vokozela (WP), Tiaan Lange (Bulls).
Locks: Reinhardt Ludwig (Bulls), Corne Rahl (Sharks), Connor Evans (WP), Merwe Olivier (Bulls).
Loose forwards: Ruan Venter (Lions), Cameron Hanekom (Bulls), Siya Ningiza (Sharks), Gcino Mdletshe (Bulls), Paul de Villiers (WP), Louw Nel (WP).
Scrumhalves: Nico Steyn (Lions), Neil le Roux (Bulls), Imad Khan (WP).
Flyhalves: Sacha Mngomezulu (WP), Compion von Ludwig (Bulls).
Centres: Carlton Banies (Bulls), Suleiman Hartzenberg (WP), Ethan James (WP).
Outside backs: Donovan Don (Griffons), Katlego Letebele (Bulls), Duran Koevort (WP), Canan Moodie (Bulls).