In the second article of a series, DYLAN JACK rewinds to the 2012 World Rugby U20 Championship and looks at what happened to the title-winning Junior Springboks.
JUNIOR SPRINGBOKS (vs New Zealand):
8 Fabian Booysen
Booysen started four of the Junior Springboks’ five matches, including the final against New Zealand, where he provided one of the telling touches of the game by offloading to Jan Serfontein to score the definitive try. After the final, he returned to the Lions and continued to play age-grade rugby for the team, making eight appearances for their U21 side in 2012. Booysen then played for UJ for the next two years – helping the university make the semi-finals of the Varsity Cup in 2013. He was first named in the Lions Vodacom Super Rugby squad in 2015 and made his Currie Cup debut that year. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2016 and continued to fill in for Lions captain Warren Whiteley until he was released from the Lions in 2018. Booysen then joined the SWD Eagles and played a season for them before stepping away from rugby.
7 Pieter-Steph du Toit
Another future 2019 World Cup winner, Du Toit would become a regular member of the Springboks after making his Test debut in 2013 at the Millennium Stadium. While he was used at flank in the U20 semi-final against England and final against New Zealand, he reverted to lock when he returned to the Sharks. He signed a three-year contract extension with the Sharks in 2013, but endured an injury-hit spell in Durban, injuring the same knee in 2013 and 2014 – but he recovered in time to play for the Boks in the 2015 World Cup. After the World Cup, Du Toit moved back to the Western Cape to be closer to his family’s farm near Riebeek-Kasteel by joining the Stormers. He has since thrived – winning three SA Rugby Player of the Year awards and being named 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year.
6 Wiaan Liebenberg (c)
The captain of the 2012 Junior Springboks, Liebenberg enjoyed a memorable 2012, making his Blue Bulls debut in the Vodacom Cup and winning the Varsity Cup with UP-Tuks before leading the U20s to victory in the Championships. He would then make his Currie Cup debut for the Bulls in the same year to wrap up an amazing year. Despite continuing with the Bulls for the next three years and captaining UP-Tuks, he could not seal a place in their starting lineup. In 2015, he was recruited by Jake White to join his revolution at Montpellier with a number of other South African players. After making close to 50 appearances, he switched to La Rochelle in 2018 and he has starred in the Top 14 since.
5 Ruan Botha
An underrated member of the 2012 team, Botha would go on to make his Super Rugby debut for the Lions in 2012, but returned to Cape Town in 2013 after the Lions were relegated from Super Rugby. His arrival back in his hometown was met with much fanfare, with then Western Province coach John Dobson claiming that he was a future Springbok. However, injuries and the emergence of JD Schickerling slowed his progress and he moved in the opposite direction when Du Toit was brought back to the Stormers from the Sharks. It was in Durban where Botha really managed to emerge and after a short settling-in period, he shone as both an abrasive carrier and excellent lineout operator. His qualities as a leader were also recognised as he was named Sharks captain for the 2017 Currie Cup season and led the team to the final, where they lost to Western Province. His form in that tournament earned him a place in the Springbok squad for the year-end tour in 2017, but he did not make his Test debut. He retained the captaincy for the 2018 Super Rugby season, but then signed a deal with Japanese Top League side Kubota Spears, which kept him out of the Currie Cup. Botha eventually bid the Sharks farewell in 2019 as he signed for London Irish and joined the team after last year’s Super Rugby campaign.
4 Paul Willemse
Willemse played in all five games of the U20 Championship – scoring tries in the pool stage against Ireland and Italy. Like Botha, Willemse made his Super Rugby debut for the Lions in the same year, but then signed for the Bulls for 2013. At 20 years old he played for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup at the start of 2013, but then linked up with the Bulls’ Super Rugby squad for the rest of the season after being included in their squad for the Australasian tour. After signing a one-year contract extension, he continued to feature prominently for the Bulls. However, in 2014, Willemse accepted a big-money move to Grenoble and joined his team after the Currie Cup. He then joined Jake White at Montpellier in 2015 and qualified to play for France in 2018 on the residency rule. He made his Test debut for France in the 2019 Six Nations, but missed out on a place in France’s World Cup squad.
3 Maks van Dyk
Van Dyk was used off the bench in the matches against Ireland and England, but then started the next two games against Argentina and New Zealand. After the tournament, he continued to play for the Sharks U21 and in the Vodacom Cup until 2013. He then joined the Cheetahs in 2014 and made his Super Rugby debut. After the 2014 Currie Cup, he joined Leinster on a short-term loan deal and made one appearance in their win over Connacht. In 2016, he joined Toulouse. He received his French passport in 2019, but he will have to wait until 2021 to qualify to play for France.
2 Mark Pretorius
One of the try-scorers in the semi-final against Argentina, Pretorius was part of a powerhouse scrum for the Junior Springboks. He continued to play age-grade rugby for the Lions and represented UJ in the Varsity Cup. However, in 2014, he got his chance for the senior side as injuries robbed the Lions of both Robbie Coetzee and Malcolm Marx. He was named on the bench against the Reds and made his Super Rugby debut in the 59th minute. After three years with the Lions, he joined the SWD Eagles in 2016 and spent a year with the team before moving back to his hometown in Nelspruit with the Pumas in 2017. Currently, he has retired from rugby and runs an abattoir in White River.
1 Steven Kitshoff
The second member of the pack who would go on to win a World Cup, Kitshoff was marked for greatness in rugby from an early age and had already made his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers in 2011. In his first stint with the Stormers, he would become a regular in their starting lineup and help Western Province win the Currie Cup in 2012. However, a season-ending back injury in 2014 halted his progress and it appeared that South African rugby had lost one of their most promising players when it was announced that he would join Bordeaux in 2015. Thankfully, he flew back to South Africa to make his Springbok debut in the Test series against Ireland in 2016 and then returned to the Stormers in 2017. Since returning, he has provided able backup in the leadership department for Stormers captain Siya Kolisi, while challenging Beast Mtawarira for the starting loosehead spot for the Springboks. He looks set to take his place as the Springbok loosehead when rugby resumes after the Covid-19 pandemic.
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