Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron on Monday 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.
Captain and centre Jeremy Ward will partner with JT Jackson in the midfield. Jackson is one of two survivors of the 2015 edition of the tournament in Italy.
The loose trio that featured in all three of the team’s warm-up matches in South Africa, flankers Zain Davids and Ernst van Rhyn and No8 Junior Pokomela, has been retained for the match, while flyhalf Manie Libbok and Southern Kings Vodacom Super Rugby scrumhalf James Hall will form an exciting halfback combination.
The team also includes a talented back three of wingers Mosolwa Mafuma and S’busiso Nkosi and fullback Curwin Bosch. In the front row, 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 young 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 3.15pm local time (4.15pm SA time).
U20 Springboks: Curwin Bosch, S’busiso Nkosi, Jeremy Ward (Captain), JT Jackson, Mosolwa Mafuma, Manie Libbok, James Hall, Junior Pokomela, Ernst van Rhyn, Zain Davids, Eli Snyman, Cobus Wiese, Jaco Holtzhausen, Tango Balekile, Kwenzo Blose.
Replacements: Franco van den Berg, Jan-Henning Campher, Carlü Sadie, Ruben de Villiers, Denzel Hill, Embrose Papier, Franco Naude, Keanu Vers.