Junior Springboks head coach, Bafana Nhleko, named five uncapped players in his starting team to face Italy in Paarl on Thursday in their second Pool C match of the 2023 World Rugby U20 Championship.
Backs Regan Izaks (fullback), Quewin Nortje (wing) and Sam Francis (flyhalf) will don the South African Under-20 colours for the first time, alongside Cornè Beets (no 8) and Tiaan Wessels (lock) as Nhleko stuck to his pre-tournament intentions to give everyone in the squad a run as early as possible. Litelihle Bester (utility back) will make his debut off the bench.
Paul de Villiers will again lead the side as one of five starters against Georgia in the opening game last weekend. Vice-captain Katlego Letebele is getting a second start, as is JF van Heerden, Mawande Mdanda and Juann Else.
Michael Annies, Damian Markus, Neil le Roux, Jannes Potgieter and Cornѐ Lavagna all played off the bench last week but will start the game this time around.
“It was always part of the planning to give as many players as possible a run in the first two games.” Nhleko said. “We told the group that we need to rotate as the tournament goes along. It is also important to show trust in every player in our squad and give them a run early on. This will help us have fresh bodies throughout the tournament, as the turnaround between matches will be taxing on the bodies,”
With regards to the five players who earn a consecutive start, Nhleko said some continuity was important.
“We needed some consistency in the spine and those guys will provide that. The five starting this week after coming off the bench against Georgia get some reward for the impact they had on the game once they got on the field, but again, rotation was always part of the plan.”
Nhleko pointed out that a squad effort was going to be crucial for success in the tournament.
“I told the players that we will need 30 and even one or two more players to get the result we want, so we are going to call on everyone to contribute during the tournament. An important thing is also to grow this group and the only way that is going to be possible is to get them game time.”
With regards to Italy, Nhleko said they are expecting a fierce onslaught.
“They will be hurting. Things did not go that well against Argentina, especially after that red card. One thing I did pick up from their U20 Six Nations campaign is that they play with flair and with good endeavour to give the ball some air. They also have a strong set piece and kicking game. We are not expecting an easy game at all.”
Nhleko said the expected sold-out crowd will give the team energy. Less than 1000 tickets are left for the matches at Paarl Gymnasium on Thursday.
“It was so great to feel the support from the crowd in our first match. From leaving the hotel till we got onto our change rooms, the team was cheered on, that is not something they were used to. It is a massive privilege to play at home and we want to make the best of that.”
Kick-off is at 16h00 on Thursday.
Junior Springboks vs Georgia:
15. Regan Izaks (uncapped)
14. Michael Annies – 1 cap, 0 points
13. Katlego Letebele (vice-captain) – 3 caps, 5 points (1 try)
12. Damian Markus – 1 cap, 0 points
11. Quewin Nortje (uncapped)
10. Sam Francis (uncapped)
9. Neil Le Roux (4 caps, 0 points)
8. Cornѐ Beets (uncapped)
7. Jannes Potgieter – 1 cap, 0 points
6. Paul de Villiers (captain) – 5 caps, 0 points
5. JF Van Heerden – 1 cap, 0 points
4. Tiaan Wessels (uncapped)
3. Mawande Mdanda – 1 cap, 0 points
2. Juann Else – 4 caps, 0 points
1. Cornè Lavagna – 3 caps, 0 points
16. SJ Kotze – 1 cap, 0 points
17. Phatu Ganyane – 1 cap, 0 points
18. Zachary Porthen – 1 cap, 0 points
19. Ghudian van Reenen – 1 cap, 0 points
20. Gcinokuhle Mdletshe – 5 caps, 0 points
21. Imad Khan – 5 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Litelihle Bester (uncapped)
23. Jurenzo Julius – 1 cap, 5 points (1 try)