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The defending champions of the SA Rugby under-21 Cup, the Vodacom Bulls begin their 2023 campaign in Potchefstroom where they will play against their hosts, the Leopards on Saturday 26 August. The two teams will meet at Olen Park, with kick-off set for 12h00.

The herd will have Corne Lavagna (loose-head), Juann Else (hooker) and Mawande Mdanda (tight-head) on the front row. Merwe Olivier and Cayno February will line up as the lock combination in the second row with captain, Neels Volschenk (blind-side flank), Ghudian van Reenen (openside-side flank), supported by eightman, Abulele Ndabambi behind them.

Steven Nel (scrum half) and Franco Knoetze (fly half) will link the forwards with the backline that has Alfondso Isaacs at left wing and Michial Damon on the right. Vice-captain, Carlton Banies and South African under-20 vice-captain, Katlego Letebele will combine at centre. Regan Izaks will steer the team from fullback.

The impact squad will have Johan Lombaard, Tielman Nieuwoudt, Johan Louw, Lukas Meyer, Gcino Mdletshe, Caleb Abrahams, Gert Steyn, Jaydon Bantom to serve off the bench.

Head coach, Wessel du Plessis spoke ahead of the opening round of fixtures and said: “We have a young squad ranging from under-19 to under-21 players who all bring a good and balanced set of skills that will contribute towards our campaign. The fact that our players are willing to learn and better themselves is what makes the squad exciting to work with,”

“We continue to want to develop young players who can perform well under pressure and prepare to play senior rugby whilst we also focus on harnessing a winning culture. For us as the Vodacom Bulls junior structures, the process is important because it is our way of setting the standards that will help us meet our objectives,”

“We are happy to get going. The boys have worked really hard to get ready and we begin the competition in high spirits.”

1. Corne Lavagna, 2. Juann Else, 3. Mawande Mdanda, 4. Merwe Olivier, 5. Cayno February, 6. Neels Volschenk (c), 7. Ghudian van Reenen, 8. Abulele Ndabambi, 9. Steven Nel, 10. Franco Knoetze, 11. Alfondso Isaacs, 12. Carlton Banies (vc), 13. Katlego Letebele, 14. Michial Damon, 15. Regan Izaks

16. Johan Lombaard, 17. Tielman Nieuwoudt, 18. Johan Louw, 19. Lukas Meyer, 20. Gcino Mdletshe, 21. Caleb Abrahams, 22. Gert Steyn, 23. Jaydon Bantom

Wessel Du Plessis – Head Coach, Edgar Marutlulle – Assistant Coach, Ofentse Moeng – Assistant Coach, Dr. Gerhard Louwrens – Team Doctor, Claudette Eckard – Physiotherapist, Limbi Siyani – Sports Scientist, Michael Prevoo – Strength and Conditioning, Tshepo Mashigo – Logistics Manager, Prieur Le Grange – Technical Analyst & Team Manager

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