Cape Town - Wandisile Simelane will start on the wing and Lubabalo Dobela at flyhalf when the Junior Springboks meet World Rugby U20 Championship hosts France in their pool decider in Narbonne on Thursday, among six changes to coach Chean Roux’s starting team.
Dobela will make his first start in the competition, and Simelane, who moved from centre to the wing during the match against Ireland, will take over the No 11 jersey, after the SA U20s lost Damian Willemse and Muller du Plessis due to injuries.
Simelane’s switch sees Manuel Rass start in the midfield with Lyle Hendricks, while flanker PJ Steenkamp will join Dian Schoonees and Muller Uys in the loose trio, and Ruan Vermaak partners up with captain Salmaan Moerat at lock.
The other change in the starting team is at hooker, where Schalk Erasmus comes in for Daniel Jooste, who suffered a rib injury at training on Tuesday.
On the bench, versatile front-rower Tiaan van der Merwe provides cover at hooker, and David Coetzer, who joined the team in France on Tuesday morning, at flyhalf. They are both in line for their World Rugby U20 Championship debuts.
Winger Sihle Njezula, meanwhile, makes a welcome return to the match-day squad among the replacements after recovering from the ankle injury he suffered against Georgia.
“Unfortunately we had a few injuries, but we also looked at the group as a whole, and the players that are coming in deserve their places in the squad,” said Roux.
“This is a reward for all their hard work, and I believe they will make a big contribution.”
Roux is expecting a physical encounter against the French in front of their home crowd and said: “It is a big challenge to face the host nation. They will be passionate and so will their supporters, and as a team they are big and strong. But we are looking forward it, and we are excited about the match.”
Roux, however, said his charges knew what they had to do to ensure that they guarantee their place in the semi-final.
“I think we are moving in the right direction as a team, and getting better as the tournament progresses, although we still haven’t played to our full potential. The important thing will be to put in a proper 80-minute performance, as opposed to playing in patches,” said Roux.
The match will kick off at 21:00 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport 1.
The semi-finals, which will feature the top team in each pool and the next best-placed side in the competition after the completion of the pool stages, will be hosted on Tuesday, June 12, and the final on Sunday, June 17.
Junior Springbok team to face France:
15 Gianni Lombard (Golden Lions), 14 Tyrone Green (Golden Lions), 13 Manuel Rass (Golden Lions), 12 Lyle Hendricks (Western Province), 11 Wandisile Simelane (Golden Lions), 10 Lubabalo Dobela (Free State), 9 Zak Burger (Sharks), 8 Muller Uys (Western Province) 7 PJ Steenkamp (Golden Lions), 6 Dian Schoonees (Golden Lions), 5 Ruan Vermaak (Golden Lions), 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain, Western Province), 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Golden Lions), 2 Schalk Erasmus (Western Province), 1 Nathan McBeth (Golden Lions)
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe (Golden Lions), 17 Alulutho Tshakweni (Eastern Province), 18 Sazi Sandi (Western Province), 19 Ruan Nortje (Blue Bulls), 20 Ben-Jason Dixon (Western Province), 21 Rewan Kruger (Free State), 22 David Coetzer (Western Province), 23 Sihle Njezula (Western Province)