JOHANNESBURG – A team stacked with stars will open South Africa’s challenge when the World Rugby U-20 Championship kicks off in Tbilisi, Georgia on Wednesday.
Rugby fans will know the names of Manie Libbok, Yaw Penxe, Stedman Gans, Curwin Bosch and maybe to a lesser extent Wandisile Simelane, Zain Davids and Salmaan Moerat - all players who’ll turn out in the starting team against France at the Avchala Stadium from 1.30pm.
And on the bench there are among others Kwenso Blose, Damian Willemse and Gianni Lombard - players who have all made a big name for themselves in junior rugby.
It is indeed a star-studded side picked by coach Chean Roux for the South Africans’ opener.
Many of the players either featured at the tournament last year or played for the SA Schools team. The team will be captained by Ernst van Rhyn, who also ran out at the tournament in Manchester in 2016.
Bosch, for the Sharks, and Penxe, for the Kings, played Super Rugby this season, while Gans featured for the Sevens team.
“The experience the players will bring from last year will certainly be beneficial against France,” said Roux on Tuesday when he finalised his lineup.
“They know what it is like to play for their country in front of a crowd and to sing the national anthem, and hopefully that experience will filter down to the other players making their debuts.
“We had a good idea about the team we wanted to select for this match so it wasn’t that tough to select the starting side. But that said we have 28 very good players in the squad and any of them can play at any time.”
Roux said France, who finished in second position in the U-20 Six Nations earlier this year, would pose a big test for his side.
“France are a physical side and they do not like to kick the ball much, so they will want to bring that French flair into their game. That means our defence will have to be up to scratch,” he said.
Wednesday’s match against France will kick off at 1.30pm SA time and will be broadcast live on SuperSport 1 (channel 201).
Team: Manie Libbok, Yaw Penxe, Stedman Gans, David Brits, Wandisile Simelane, Curwin Bosch, Rewan Kruger, Juarno Augustus, Ernst van Rhyn (capt), Zain Davids, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat, Carlu Sadie, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: Kwenzo Blose, Daniel Jooste, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, Hendre Stassen, Nama Xaba, Francois de Villiers, Damian Willemse, Gianni Lombard