CAPE TOWN – Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux says Friday's warm-up against Georgia will serve as the perfect opportunity to see what his team can do as they prepare for the World Rugby Under-20 Championships in France.
The Junior Boks will face the Georgians - who the South Africans will also meet in the tournament opener - at the Markötter Fields at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch on Friday (kick-off 4pm) before the international tournament kicks off later this month.
The team's starting line-up - captained by former SA Schools skipper Salmaan Moerat - includes five players who were members of the SA U20 team that finished third in the competiton in Tbilisi, Georgia, last year. They are Moerat, fullback Gianni Lombard, centre Wandisile Simelane, scrumhalf Rewan Kruger and No 8 Muller Uys.
A total of 12 former SA Schools players have been included in the match-23, with those outside of the capped Junior Springboks being props Sazi Sandi and Nkosikhona Masuku, looseforwards PJ Steenkamp, JC Pretorius and Phendulani Buthelezi, winger Sihle Njezula, and centre Rikus Pretorius.
The global tournament is scheduled for the south of France from May 30 to June 17.
Roux's team will play five internationals in the lead-up to the tournament.
The first two matches will be against World Rugby U20 Championship pool opponents Georgia in Cape Town on back-to-back Fridays, today and April 20 respectively, before meeting Scotland in Edinburgh on Friday, May 4, Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday, May 8, and England in London on Friday, May 11 on their overseas UK tour, which will serve as preparation for the championships.
The players that feature in today's contest will earn Junior Springbok caps.
“We have a group of determined and competitive players in camp, which is exciting because everyone is keen to prove themselves for places in the final squad of 28 that will participate in the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Roux.
“Georgia are tough opponents, so it is great to have a few players who were in last year’s squad to offer experience and guidance on the field. The SA schools experience will also be of great value to the players who are playing at this level for the first time, so we are excited to see what this squad can do.”
While the Junior Boks will be without a few players due to injury, they will also be without flyhalf Damian Willemse, who is on Super Rugby duty with the Stormers, and Muller du Plessis, who is with the Blitzboks at the Commonwealth Games.
And while Roux is confident about his squad, he is expecting a tough test against Georgia, who refused tobgo down without a fight against the Junior Boks last year.
“Georgia are a very physical side and they play with a lot of pride and passion, so we are expecting a big battle,” he said.
“That said, our players know what we expect of them, and they realise the importance of learning as much as possible from this experience, especially since we will face Georgia in our opening pool match in the U20 Championship in the south of France.
“Our greater goal, however, is to prepare as well as possible to stake a claim for the title in France, and every match we play is vital in this process.”
The Junior Springbok Team is:
15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Sihle Njezula, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Muller Uys, 7 PJ Steenkamp, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Ruan Nortjé, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Alulutho Tshakweni.
Bench: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Nkosikhona Masuku, 18 Cohen Kiewit, 19 JC Pretorius, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Lyle Hendricks.