CAPE TOWN – Junior Springbok flyhalf Damian Willemse will make his first appearance of the season for the SA U20’s in a settled starting team when Chean Roux’s charges meet Georgia in their opening match of the World Rugby U20 Championship at Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan on Wednesday.
Willemse, one of seven players in the match-day squad who participated in the tournament in Georgia last year, will partner with Zak Burger at halfback after coming off a solid Vodacom Super Rugby campaign for the DHL Stormers in the last few months.
Lock and captain Salmaan Moerat, centre Wandisile Simelane, No 8 Muller Uys, fullback Gianni Lombard, hooker Daniel Jooste and replacement scrumhalf Rewan Kruger are the other players in Roux’s match-23 who featured in the international spectacle in Tbilisi.
Moerat and Ruan Nortje will form the lock duo, while flankers Dian Schoonees and PJ Steenkamp pair up with Uys in the loose trio, and Rikus Pretorius and Simelane will do duty in the midfield.
Lombard starts at fullback, with Tyrone Green and Sihle Njezula at wing, while Jooste and props Sazi Sandi and Nathan McBeth will pack down in the front row.
On the bench, replacement lock Ruan Nortje will make his Junior Springbok debut if he takes to the field after missing the team’s internationals in the lead-up to the tournament due to a knee injury.
Junior Springbok team v Georgia (15-1): Gianni Lombard, Tyrone Green, Wandisile Simelane, Rikus Pretorius, Sihle Njezula, Damian Willemse, Zak Burger, Muller Uys, PJ Steenkamp, Dian Schoonees, Ruan Nortje, Salmaan Moerat (c), Sazi Sandi, Daniel Jooste, Nathan McBeth @Springboks pic.twitter.com/64VW5OtPGl
“We were fortunate to be able to select a settled squad, which will be handy against a physical and passionate Georgian outfit,” said Roux.
“All the players are fit and eager to play, and we selected a team that we thought would be best suited to the game against Georgia.”
Looking ahead at the clash against Georgia, Roux said he is expecting a physical onslaught: “Georgia play with their hearts on their sleeves and they will take to the field with everything they have. They are a forward-driven team, with a good scrum and lineout maul, so they will probably try to lay the foundation there.
But that said, our plans for the game are mapped out and hopefully we can counter that.”
The match kicks off at 18h30 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport 1.
Junior Bok bench vs Georgia in the @WorldRugby U20 Champs: Schalk Erasmus, Alulutho Tshakweni, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Ben-Jason Dixon, Ruan Vermaak, Rewan Kruger, Lubabalo Dobela, Lyle Hendricks @Springboks pic.twitter.com/AJGaerc4ic
The Junior Springbok team to face Georgia is:
15 – Gianni Lombard (Xerox Golden Lions)
14 – Tyrone Green (Xerox Golden Lions)
13 – Wandisile Simelane (Xerox Golden Lions)
12 – Rikus Pretorius (DHL Western Province)
11 – Sihle Njezula (DHL Western Province)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Western Province)
9 – Zak Burger (Cell C Sharks)
8 – Muller Uys (DHL Western Province)
7 – PJ Steenkamp (Xerox Golden Lions)
6 – Dian Schoonees (Xerox Golden Lions)
5 – Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
4 – Salmaan Moerat (captain – DHL Western Province)
3 – Sazi Sandi (DHL Western Province)
2 – Daniel Jooste (DHL Western Province)
1 – Nathan McBeth (Xerox Golden Lions)
16 – Schalk Erasmus (DHL Western Province)
17 – Alulutho Tshakweni (Eastern Province)
18 – Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Xerox Golden Lions)
19 – Ben-Jason Dixon (DHL Western Province)
20 – Ruan Vermaak (Xerox Golden Lions)
21 – Rewan Kruger (Toyota Free State)
22 – Lubabalo Dobela (Toyota Free State)
23 – Lyle Hendricks (DHL Western Province)