Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron named a strong team to face Japan in their opening match at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship at the Academy Stadium in Manchester, England, on Tuesday, with Curwin Bosch at fullback and Manie Libbok at flyhalf.
Jeremy Ward will captain the side from the midfield, where he will partner JT Jackson, one of only two players in the 28-man squad who featured in the 2015 edition of the tournament in Italy.
The loose trio that featured in all three warm-up matches in South Africa, Zain Davids, Ernst van Rhyn and Junior Pokomela, has been retained for the match, while Libbok will be partnered by Southern Kings Vodacom Super Rugby scrumhalf James Hall.
The team also includes an exciting back three of Bosch, along with wingers Mosolwa Mafuma and S’busiso Nkosi. Upfront, props Kwenzo Blose and Jaco Holtzhausen will pair up with hooker Tango Balekile.
“We selected a strong team to lay the foundation for our campaign against a highly-motivated Japan side,” said Theron.
“These players all proved their worth in the warm-up matches as individuals and as combinations, and we are excited by what they can do if they play to their potential.
“The players have settled in well since we arrived in Manchester and I have been pleased with the quality of our training sessions and the players’ attitude, and hopefully they will transfer that onto the field on Tuesday.”
Theron said the weather was surprisingly pleasant in Manchester, and he said if it continued through to tomorrow, it could assist them.
“The weather has been amazing since Friday,” said the coach. “The sun has been shining and it has been very warm. On Sunday the players were scrambling for sunblock at training and we have had to have short sharp training sessions to prevent them from being in the sun too long.
“This is a real bonus because it is weather conditions we are used to; we have been training in this weather since the squad assembled early in April.”
Looking ahead at the clash against Japan, Theron expected them to spread the ball wide and test the Junior Boks’ defence.
“We expect Japan to be motivated, competitive and they will try to run at us,” said Theron. “They will also put a lot of effort into the set pieces, so we are anticipating a tough challenge all around.”
The match will kick off at 15h15 local time (16h15 SA Time).
Junior Springbok team vs Japan in the World Rugby U20 Championship:
15 Curwin Bosch Cell C Sharks
14 S’busiso Nkosi Cell C Sharks
13 Jeremy Ward (Captain), Eastern Province
12 JT Jackson Vodacom Blue Bulls
11 Mosolwa Mafuma Toyota Free State
10 Manie Libbok Vodacom Blue Bulls
9 James Hall Eastern Province
8 Junior Pokomela Eastern Province
7 Ernst van Rhyn DHL Western Province
6 Zain Davids DHL Western Province
5 Eli Snyman Vodacom Blue Bulls
4 Cobus Wiese DHL Western Province
3 Jaco Holtzhausen Vodacom Blue Bulls
2 Tango Balekile Eastern Province
1 Kwenzo Blose Toyota Free State
16 Franco van den Berg Vodacom Blue Bulls
17 Jan-Henning Campher Vodacom Blue Bulls
18 Carlü Sadie DHL Western Province
19 Ruben de Villiers DHL Western Province
20 Denzel Hill Vodacom Blue Bulls
21 Embrose Papier Vodacom Blue Bulls
22 Franco Naude Vodacom Blue Bulls
23 Keanu Vers Eastern Province