The Junior Springboks have suffered two big injury blows ahead of Monday’s World Under-20 Championship semi-final against England in Manchester.
Wing S’busiso Nkosi and scrumhalf Embrose Papier were both hurt during practice on Saturday and will miss the playoff at the Academy Stadium.
Nkosi has a thigh problem, while matric pupil Papier’s foot was caught in another player’s boot and damaged his ankle ligaments. Both players were in excellent form in last Wednesday’s crucial 40-31 bonus-point victory over France, which saw them qualify as the fourth semi-final team.
This sees Mosolwa Mafuma return to the side at right wing in place of Nkosi after starting the first two games at left wing, while in a bit of a surprise selection, Theron has opted for Marco Jansen van Vuren as Papier’s replacement ahead of Southern Kings Super Rugby No 9 James Hall.
Theron made four other changes, with Western Province’s Ernst van Rhyn back at blindside flank for Cobus Wiese, while there is a brand-new front row of Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Tango Balekile and Jaco Holtzhausen.
“We were unfortunate in the last few days with regards to injuries,” Theron said on Sunday. “Carlü Sadie hurt his ankle and Franco van den Berg had a bad contusion to his leg, so they were unable to train. But fortunately they are ready to play off the bench.
“We also lost S’busiso Nkosi and Embrose Papier to freak accidents at training, and they were both unavailable for selection. Despite this, the spirit in the camp is very good and the guys have trained well, so we are very positive.”
The Junior Boks’ biggest problem against the French were the lineouts, where both hookers and the jumpers battled to find each other. Balekile replaced Jan-Henning Campher in the second half, but things didn’t really improve, so he will hope to secure good set-piece ball for strike-runners such as Manie Libbok, Curwin Bosch and Edwill van der Merwe in the backline.
Bosch was the Man of the Match against France with a brilliant display on attack and with the boot, but he will need front-foot ball to put the English defence under pressure.
Monday’s semi-final (8.45pm kickoff SA time) will also have an element of revenge for the South Africans after England beat them in last year’s semi-final. “England will come hard at us,” Theron said.
“They will focus on the scrums, mauls and lineouts, as they like disrupting their opposition at source. They will do the same as in the past by trying to play on their terms, so we would like to get them out of that rhythm.
“In terms of our game, we need to play to our strengths, so we need to get enough quality ball for the backs, and let them do their thing. We have several players with an X-factor in the team, so making the right decisions at the right time will be crucial.”
Junior Springbok Team
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Mosolwa Mafuma, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 JT Jackson, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Zain Davids, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Ruben de Villiers, 3 Jaco Holtzhausen, 2 Tango Balekile, 1 Nicolaas Oosthuizen.
Bench: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Franco van den Berg, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Eduard Zandberg, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 James Hall, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Keanu Vers.
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