Cape Town - Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux has named Ernst van Rhyn as captain of the SA Under-20 squad for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Tbilisi, Georgia, with eight players among the chosen 28 having played in the same tournament last year.
Van Rhyn, Curwin Bosch, Kwenzo Blose, Carlu Sadie, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, Manie Libbok and Embrose Papier were all members of the Junior Springbok team that finished fourth in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester in 2016.
Roux’s squad also includes six players who represented the SA Schools team last season in the Under-19 International Series, namely Salmaan Moerat, who captained the team, Gianni Lombard, Rewan Kruger, Wandisile Simelane, Damian Willemse and Daniel Jooste.
While Bosch has been a stand-out performer for the Sharks in Super Rugby, Willemse has also made his debut for the Stormers, while Davids and Gans have been with the Springbok Sevens squad for the last three months.
The team will be led by experienced captain Van Rhyn, who was the SA Under-20 vice-captain last season and the SA Schools captain in 2015, while Johan Grobbelaar has been named the vice-captain.
"We are pleased with the quality of the players in our squad and we believe the team has the potential to go all the way in the competition," said Roux.
"We had to make a number of tough calls to narrow down the group to 28 players, but we are confident that we have selected a squad worthy of competing against the best teams in the world in Georgia.
"A number of the players have experienced international age-group rugby either in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship or the Under-19 International Series, while others have been exposed to International Sevens and Vodacom Super Rugby, which will be invaluable in Georgia."
Commenting on the selection of the captain, Roux spoke highly of Van Rhyn.
"Ernst is a hard worker on the field and has proved his worth as a leader in the last few seasons at the SA Schools team and the SA Under-20s last year," the coach said.
"A captain has to lead by example and ensure that there is cohesion in the team at all times, and these qualities will be vital in guiding us through the competition."
Looking at the tournament in Georgia, Roux expected his team to be tested thoroughly, but he was pleased with their preparation up to now.
"We face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages, so we have to be in top form from the outset to stay in a strong position to stake a claim for the trophy," said Roux.
"That said we have been working very hard at training in the last two months to prepare both physically and mentally for what we can expect in Tbilisi and we hope that this will pay off.
"The important thing now will be to maintain the high intensity of our training sessions and to keep sharp before we depart for Georgia.”
The Junior Springboks will face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages of the international spectacle in Tbilisi, which runs from May 31 to June 18. The team will depart for Georgia on Thursday, May 25.
Junior Bok squad for U-20 World Championship:
Juarno Augustus (Western Province), Kwenzo Blose (Free State Cheetahs), Curwin Bosch (Sharks), David Brits (Western Province), Jean-Luc Cilliers (Golden Lions), Zain Davids (Western Province), Francois de Villiers (Sharks), Stedman Gans (Blue Bulls), Johan Grobbelaar (vice-captain, Blue Bulls), Wikus Groenewald (Western Province), Daniel Jooste (Western Province), Rewan Kruger (Free State Cheetahs), Manie Libbok (Blue Bulls), Gianni Lombard (Golden Lions), Len Massyn (Golden Lions), Lee-Marvin Mazibuko (Western Province), Salmaan Moerat (Western Province), Reinhard Nothnagel (Golden Lions), Embrose Papier (Blue Bulls), Yaw Penxe (EP Kings), Carlu Sadie (Western Province), Wandisile Simelane (Golden Lions), Hendre Stassen (Blue Bulls), Gerhard Steenekamp (Blue Bulls), Ruben van Heerden (Blue Bulls), Damian Willemse (Western Province), Nama Xaba (Western Province), Ernst van Rhyn (captain, Western Province)