CAPE TOWN – Salmaan Moerat will lead a Junior Springbok squad featuring seven players who participated in the World Rugby U20 Championship last year, from 30 May to 17 June in the south of France.
Moerat, who established himself as a fine captain for the SA Schools team in 2016, will have the support of Damian Willemse, Wandisile Simelane, Muller Uys, Gianni Lombard, Rewan Kruger and Daniel Jooste, all of whom were members of the 2016 SAU20 squad that won the bronze medal in Georgia.
Adding to this experience, Willemse has been the DHL Stormers’ preferred flyhalf this season, while Moerat also made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut, and utility back Muller du Plessis represented the Springbok Sevens team in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
In total, 22 of the players in Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux’s 28-man squad also have junior international experience having represented the SA Schools or SA Schools A teams in the Under-18 International Series, while every player with the exception of lock Ruan Vermaak – who is recovering from a knee injury – featured in the warm-up matches against Georgia.
“This is a talented squad with solid international experience, and we are confident in their abilities,” said Roux.
“We had to make a few tough calls, especially after the matches against Georgia, but we believe we have a squad worthy of competing against the best U20 teams in the world.
“One can never underestimate the value of playing international rugby at any level, so we are pleased that most of the players have worn the green and gold before for both the Junior Springboks and the SA Schools sides.”
Roux spoke highly of Moerat and said: “Salmaan is a born leader. He led the Western Province U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week team and the SA Schools team, and he did so with distinction.
“He has been equally influential at our training camps since the squad gathered in February, and all of the players have immense respect for him, so he was the natural choice as the captain.”
The Junior Springboks will continue their preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship with a three-match tour to the UK, following their 48-23 and 55-14 victories against Georgia, who they will face in their opening pool match at the World Rugby U20 Championship.
The SA U20s will meet Scotland in Edinburgh on Friday, 4 May, Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday, 8 May, and England in London on Friday 11 May on tour. They depart for the UK on Monday evening.
The team has been drawn in Pool C at the World Rugby U20 Championship, which runs from 30 May to 17 June. They will meet Georgia in their opening pool match on Wednesday 30 May, and then take on Ireland on Sunday, 3 June, and France on Thursday, 7 June in the pool stages.
The Junior Springbok squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship (in alphabetical order):
Zak Burger - Sharks, scrumhalf
Ben-Jason Dixon - Western Province, lock
Lubabalo Dobela - Free State, flyhalf
Muller du Plessis - Sharks, utility back
Schalk Erasmus - Western Province, hooker
Tyrone Green - Golden Lions, wing
Jack Hart – Golden Lions, scrumhalf
Lyle Hendricks - Western Province, centre
Daniel Jooste* - Western Province, Hooker
Cohen Kiewit - Golden Lions, prop
Rewan Kruger* - Free State, scrumhalf
Gianni Lombard* - Golden Lions, fullback
Nathan McBeth – Golden Lions, prop
Salmaan Moerat (capt)* - Western Province, lock
Sihle Njezula - Western Province, wing
Ruan Nortje - Blue Bulls, lock
Asenathi Ntlabakanye - Golden Lions, prop
Rikus Pretorius - Western Province, Centre
Manuel Rass - Golden Lions, centre
Sazi Sandi - Western Province, Prop
Dian Schoonees - Golden Lions, looseforward
Wandisile Simelane* - Golden Lions, centre
PJ Steenkamp - Golden Lions, looseforward
Alulutho Tshakweni - Eastern Province, prop
Muller Uys* - Western Province, looseforward
Tiaan van der Merwe - Golden Lions, Prop
Ruan Vermaak - Golden Lions, lock
Damian Willemse* - Western Province, flyhalf
*denotes 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship player