Paul de Villiers and Katlego Letebele will return for their second stint with the Junior Springboks, this time as captain and vice-captain of the South African squad to the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, which will kick off in Cape Town, Paarl and Stellenbosch later this month.
The Junior Bok squad for the global showpiece – returning to the calendar for the first time since 2019 – was announced on Friday. De Villiers and Letebele represented South Africa in the Six Nations U20 Summer Series in Italy last year.
Junior Springbok head coach, Bafana Nhleko, included Zachary Porthen, who captained the SA Schools side last year, alongside two more of his U18 team-mates from 2022 in Litelihle Bester and JF van Heerden.
Nhleko also roped in Blitzbok speedster Masande Mtshali, who made his debut for the national sevens team earlier this season and played in four tournaments on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
“This selection is a great testimony of SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development programme paying dividends and I’m very excited to take these players into the tournament,” said Nhleko.
“I believe we have selected a quality group of players with a good balance within the squad. There were guys who pushed hard during the SA Rugby Academy phase but didn’t make the final squad, they can easily slot in if needed as they know our structures and how we want to play.
“I would like to congratulate the players who were selected, but also stress that the real hard work starts now – it’s a massive task to play in a world championship and even bigger privilege to be playing at home, with the challenge comes a big responsibility.
“We realise there will be added pressure because we’re playing at home, but we embrace that as a positive. We have a wonderful opportunity to play in front of our family and friends and in familiar conditions and we need to make the most of it.”
The pool rounds of the tournament are scheduled for 24 and 29 June, and 4 July, with the two playoff rounds on 9 and 14 July, when the final will take place at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town. Tickets, priced at R35 (children under 12) and R55 (adults) are available from Ticketmaster.
Junior Springbok squad:
Props: Corne Lavagna (Vodacom Bulls), Dian Heunis (Cell C Sharks), Mawande Mdanda (Vodacom Bulls), Phatu Ganyane (Cell C Sharks), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province).
Hookers: Juann Else (Vodacom Bulls), SJ Kotze (Lions).
Locks: Coetzee le Roux (Cell C Sharks), Tiaan Wessels (Lions), JF van Heerden (Vodacom Bulls).
Loose forwards: Abulele Ndabambi (Vodacom Bulls), Corne Beets (Vodacom Bulls), Gcinokuhle Mdletshe (Vodacom Bulls), Ghudian van Reenen (Vodacom Bulls), Jannes Potgieter (Cell C Sharks) Paul de Villiers (captain, DHL Western Province).
Scrumhalves: Imad Khan (DHL Western Province), Neil le Roux (Vodacom Bulls).
Flyhalves: Jean Smith (Cell C Sharks), Sam Francis (Lions).
Centres: Damian Markus (DHL Western Province), Ethan Hooker (Cell C Sharks), Jurenzo Julius (Cell C Sharks), Katlego Letebele (vice-captain, Vodacom Bulls), Litelihle Bester (Cell C Sharks).
Outside backs: Masande Mtshali (SA Sevens contracted), Michael Annies (Toyota Cheetahs), Quewin Nortje (Vodacom Bulls), Hakeem Kunene (Cell C Sharks), Regan Izaks (Vodacom Bulls).
World Rugby U20 Championship pool fixtures:
Saturday, 24 June:
19h00: Junior Boks v Georgia (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch)
Thursday, 29 June:
16h00: Junior Boks v Italy (Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl)
Tuesday, 4 July:
19h00: Junior Boks v Argentina (Athlone Stadium, Cape Town)