Junior Bok squad named for U20 Rugby Championship

JURENZO Julius of South Africa during the 2023 World Rugby U20 Championship semifinal against Ireland. | BackpagePix

JURENZO Julius of South Africa during the 2023 World Rugby U20 Championship semifinal against Ireland. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 12, 2024


FIVE members of last year’s Junior Springbok squad were included in the 31-player touring group for the inaugural Under-20 Rugby Championship in Australia, that was announced by SA U20 head coach Bafana Nhleko on Thursday.

The inaugural SANZAAR-arranged tournament, which features the up-and-coming U20 players from South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia, will be staged in Queensland next month.

Thursday’s squad announcement follows an intense period of preparations of the SA Rugby Academy training group at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports (SAS).

This new event will be hosted in the Sunshine Coast region, north of Brisbane on Australia’s eastern seaboard during early May and will comprise a round-robin format where all teams will play each other once. The top team after the three-round, six-match tournament will be declared the first champion.

The five players who represented the Junior Boks during the last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Cape Town are Zachary Porthen (prop), JF van Heerden (lock), Asad Moos (scrumhalf) and midfielders Jurenzo Julius and Litelihle Bester.

A part of the training group’s preparation for the forthcoming Australian tour and the World Rugby U20s included a couple of training matches against provincial outfits.

Nhleko said his coaching staff are pleased with the progress made by the group since planning preparations for their international season began with a series of alignment camps.

“The three matches will be a good test of our group’s character and skill set, as part of a performance process in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Nhleko. “The players have responded well to the detail and demands during the camps, it is now about executing and learning in a Test match pressure environment.”

According to the Junior Bok coach, the Sunshine Coast tournament will give the players crucial playing time against quality opposition, the opportunity to test combinations in a demanding competition environment and assist the coaching staff to fine-tune their team selection before the squad announcement for the world championship.

“The tour will be a great opportunity for the players to gain experience and enjoy a different environment and culture, while we continue to grow as a group, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to play in this tournament from a performance and preparation perspective,” said Nhleko.

“I also see it as part of reviving our Elite Player Development pathway programme, because some of the players in the group have been part of the identification and development process, while those selected who were not part of the EPD have also shown that the pathway process is extensive and there are always opportunities.

“A few players would be disappointed to have missed out on the opportunity to tour, while there are also a few of players who could not be considered for selection because of injury. However, the door is still open for all of them, and we will continue working with the unions to monitor other players because we still have a preparation block to complete when we return from Australia before we wrap up our final preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship.”

The Junior Springboks will leave for Australia on Wednesday April 24 and return home on Tuesday May 14. All games will be staged at the Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Junior Springbok squad for the U20 Rugby Championship:


Props: Casper Badenhorst (Vodacom Bulls), Liyema Ntshanga (Toyota Cheetahs), Mbasa Maqubela (Vodacom Bulls), Reno Hirst (Fidelity ADT Lions), Ruan Swart (Vodacom Bulls), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province).

Hookers: CJ Erasmus (DHL Western Province), Ethan Bester (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Juan Smal (Vodacom Bulls).

Locks: Adam de Waal (DHL Western Province), JF van Heerden (Vodacom Bulls), Thomas Dyer (Hollywoodbets Sharks).

Loose forwards: Bathobele Hlekani (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Divan Fuller (DHL Western Province), Keanu Coetsee (Vodacom Bulls), Sibabalwe Mahashe (Fidelity ADT Lions), Thabang Mphafi (Fidelity ADT Lions), Tiaan Jacobs (Biarritz, France).


Scrumhalves: Asad Moos (DHL Western Province), Ezekiel Ngubane (DHL Western Province), Hassiem Pead (Fidelity ADT Lions).

Flyhalves: Thurlon Williams (Fidelity ADT Lions), Tylor Sefoor (Toyota Cheetahs).

Centres: Bruce Sherwood (DHL Western Province), Joshua Boulle (DHL Western Province), Jurenzo Julius (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Litelihle Bester (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Philip-Albert van Niekerk (Vodacom Bulls).

Outside backs: JC Mars (DHL Western Province), Joel Leotlela (DHL Western Province / SA Sevens contracted), Michail Damon (Vodacom Bulls).

U20 Rugby Championship schedule (SA kick-off times):

Thursday May 2

9am: Junior Boks vs New Zealand

11am: Australia vs Argentina

Tuesday, 7 May

9am: New Zealand vs Argentina

11am: Junior Boks vs Australia

Sunday May 12

5.30am: Junior Boks vs Argentina

7.30am: Australia vs New Zealand

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