South Africa Under 20 coach Dawie Theron has unveiled his squad for the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 on home soil in June, one which features a number of players with Super Rugby and HSBC Sevens World Series experience.
Five players – fly half Johan Goosen (Cheetahs), prop Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), centre Paul Jordaan (Sharks) and second rows Paul Willemse (Lions) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks) – have all played Super Rugby this year.
Nineteen-year-old Goosen, in particular, has caught the eye for the Cheetahs and going into their bye last weekend he was the leading point scorer in the 2012 competition and along with Du Toit has attended a Springbok planning camp in Pretoria recently.
Jordaan, Tshotsho Mbovane – who along with Goosen played in last year’s Junior World Championship in Italy when South Africa recorded their worst ever finish of fifth – and William Small-Smith have also played for the Blitzbokke on the Sevens World Series.
“This is the best available group of players and I am delighted with the composition of the group.,” admitted Theron, in his second year as Under 20 coach.
Drawing on experience
“We are mindful of the fact that we did not perform to our potential last year, so that, and the fact that we are playing at home will obviously add to the pressure. The JWC is the pinnacle of a young player’s career and they will be determined to give it their best effort in front of our home fans.”
Flanker Wian Liebenberg will captain a South African squad that has just come off the back of a 2-0 series win over their Argentina counterparts in Stellenbosch, winning 51-19 and 13-5 with a team comprising mainly Under 19 players also drawing 23-23 with the Pumitas.
“I’ve been waiting so long for this day, it’s been very stressful not to know whether you would make the team or not till today. I’m so honoured just to be part of the team and can’t describe how excited to be captain,” said Liebenberg.
“I want to take time and speak to the ex U20 captains, Arno Botha and CJ Stander, about their experiences to get some tips from them and make sure I’m as ready as I can be to be a good captain. I want to get to know everyone as a player and as a person so that we can go into the JWC as a united team.
“The pressure is on, it’s a very big responsibility but I’m ready to take it on and do my best for my team. I know that we can make our crowd proud, and having home ground advantage is always a positive thing.”
Goosen added: “Italy was an amazing experience, it was my first time abroad and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. It was the biggest stepping stone in my career, it was a great learning experience to play against international teams and it gave me the opportunity to measure myself and my skills and this is what led me to play Super Rugby.
“This year things have changed and playing at home makes a big difference, I can't wait to step out on the field.”
South Africa will open their campaign against Ireland at Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on 4 June, a side they beat twice in last year’s tournament, before facing Italy four days later in Cape Town and 2011 runners-up England on 12 June back in Stellenbosch.
The match with England, just as last year, is expected to determine the Pool B winner. England emerged 26-20 winners in an enthralling match last year to claim the semi-final berth with South Africa missing out to Australia for the best runner-up spot across the three pools to join them.
The squad will assemble in Cape Town on 24 May for a holding camp.
South Africa squad for JWC 2012
Forwards: Shaun Adendorff (Blue Bulls), Fabian Booysen (Golden Lions), Khaya Majola (KwaZulu-Natal), Wian Liebenberg (Captain, Blue Bulls), Braam Steyn (KwaZulu-Natal), Pieter-Steph Du Toit (KwaZulu-Natal), Marvin Orie (Blue Bulls), Ruan Botha (Golden Lions), Paul Willemse (Golden Lions), Allan Dell (KwaZulu-Natal), Oliver Kebble (Western Province), Steven Kitshoff (Western Province), Nicolaas Van Dyk (KwaZulu-Natal), Mark Pretorius (Golden Lions), Jason Thomas (Blue Bulls),
Backs: Dillyn Leyds (Western Province), Marais Schmidt (Golden Lions), Travis Ismaiel (Blue Bulls), Paul Jordaan (Kwazulu-Natal), Tshotsho Mbovane (Western Province), Dean Hammond (Western Province), Pat Howard (Western Province), Jan Serfontein (Blue Bulls), William Small-Smith (Blue Bulls), Johan Goosen (Free State), Tony Jantjies (Blue Bulls), Abrie Griesel (Blue Bulls), Kevin Luiters (Free State).