Cape Town - Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron on Tuesday named his 28-man squad that will do battle at World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England, from June 7 to 25.
Eastern Province centre Jeremy Ward will lead the team in the showpiece, while his provincial team-mate Junior Pokomela and 2015 SA Schools captain, Western Province lock Ernst van Rhyn, have been named as vice-captains.
The squad features two players who were members of the Junior Springbok squad that finished third at the international showpiece in Italy last year, namely centre JT Jackson and scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Nine members of the SA Schools team that featured in the Under-18 International Series in South Africa last year have also been included. They are centre Stedman Gans, flyhalves Manie Libbok and Curwin Bosch, scrumhalf Embrose Papier, locks Ruben de Villiers and Van Rhyn, loose forwards Cobus Wiese and Zain Davids and prop Carlü Sadie.
The Baby Boks will kick off the 2016 international spectacle against Japan on Tuesday, June 7 at the Academy Stadium, before taking on Argentina on June 11 at the AJ Bell Stadium, and France on June 15 back at the Academy Stadium in the pool stages.
“It is always challenging to name a squad of only 28 players, especially if one considers the immense talent at junior level in South Africa, but we have selected the best possible team for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship,” said Theron.
“JT and Marco were members of our touring squad last year, and they will be able to guide the other players in terms of what to expect, while we are lucky to have nine players in the squad who have played against some of the northern hemisphere teams in the Under-18 International Series.
“Unfortunately injuries ruled a few players out of contention, and I feel for them. But nevertheless I am pleased with the squad we have selected and I believe they have potential to challenge the best teams in the showpiece.
“This team offers something different to the sides we have selected in the past, and we are excited by the prospects these players offer.”
Among the players who were ruled out of contention for selection due to injury were Golden Lions lock Rhyno Herbst, who was recently stabbed in an attack, while Western Province prop Wikus Groenewald and Blue Bulls utility forward Hendre Stassen are nursing ankle injuries.
The team will play their first official warm-up match on Friday at Wits University in Johannesburg against the Golden Lions Under-19 and Under-21 teams, with an eye on sharpening up their game before the tournament.
This will be followed by clashes against Maties in Stellenbosch on Tuesday, May 17 and the SWD Eagles in Oudtshoorn on Saturday May 21, with the team set to depart for the international showpiece on 2 June.
Junior Springbok squad for World Rugby U20 Championship (in alphabetical order):
Tango Balekile (Hooker - Eastern Province)
Kwenzo Blose (Prop - Free State)
Curwin Bosch (Flyhalf / Fullback - Sharks)
Jan-Henning Campher (Hooker - Blue Bulls)
Zain Davids (Loose forward - Western Province)
Ruben de Villiers (Lock - Western Province)
Stedman Gans (Centre - Blue Bulls)
James Hall (Scrumhalf - Eastern Province Kings)
Denzel Hill (No 8 - Blue Bulls)
Jaco Holtzhausen (Prop - Blue Bulls)
JT Jackson (Centre - Blue Bulls)
Marco Jansen van Vuren (Scrumhalf - Golden Lions)
Manie Libbok (Flyhalf / Centre - Blue Bulls)
Mosolwa Mafuma (Wing - Free State)
Franco Naude (Centre - Blue Bulls)
S’busiso Nkosi (Wing - Sharks)
Nicolaas Oosthuizen (Prop - Eastern Province)
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf - Blue Bulls)
Junior Pokomela (No 8 - Eastern Province, vice-captain)
Carlü Sadie (Prop - Western Province)
Eli Snyman (Lock - Blue Bulls)
Franco van den Berg (Prop - Blue Bulls)
Edwill van der Merwe (Wing - Western Province)
Ernst van Rhyn (Lock / Loose forward - Western Province, vice-captain)
Keanu Vers (Fullback Eastern Province)
Jeremy Ward (Centre - Eastern Province, captain)
Cobus Wiese (Loose forward - Western Province)
Eduard Zandberg (Lock - Western Province)
Junior Pokomela (vice-captain), Jeremy Ward (captain) and Ernst van Rhyn (vice-captain). (Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)