Ruan Steenkamp will captain a powerful South Africa Under 20 side as they bid to successfully defend the IRB Junior World Championship title they memorably won on home soil in 2012.
The flanker is joined in the squad for the 2013 edition – which takes place in France from 5-23 June – by IRB Junior Player of the Year 2012 Jan Serfontein, his fellow JWC 2012 winner Handrè Pollard and Sergeal Petersen, who has caught the eye for the Southern Kings in their Super Rugby debut year.
Centre Serfontein, who scored a try in the 22-16 defeat of four-time champions New Zealand in last year’s final before a 35,000 crowd at Newlands, has established himself in the Bulls side this season and was called up to train with the Springboks national squad earlier this month.
The 28-man squad named by coach Dawie Theron also includes three Springbok Sevens players in Cheslin Kolbe, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla, the latter having scored some crucial tries in their victory at the Tokyo Sevens last month.
South Africa have just returned from a three-match tour to Argentina, where they suffered a 2-1 series defeat to their counterparts. The Baby Boks won the first match – 26-3 against an Argentina Under 20 XV – but then slipped to 47-22 and 27-22 losses against Los Pumitas.
The warm-up matches have become a traditional part of the JWC preparations for the two nations and South Africa’s preparations will continue with the forwards coming together from 1-3 May in Stellenbosch.
Exciting young talent
The full squad will be in camp from 5-12 May with a match against the senior Namibia national side in Cape Town on 11 May, giving coach Theron plenty of time to fine-tune his selection of “exciting young talent”.
“The identification, monitoring and selection process of this squad started last November, when we staged the first set of trial matches,” explained Theron.
“An extended training group was then identified. These players participated in various training camps, training matches and also the most recent tour to Argentina.
“I am therefore very satisfied and pleased with the final squad and we now need to fine tune our preparations before we travel to France. There are some exciting young talent, some players with previous JWC experience while others have played Vodacom Super Rugby and on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit.
“I am looking forward to working with this squad in the forthcoming month and to see them in action in what promises to be a very tough and demanding tournament in France.”
South Africa face a tricky pool with hosts France, England and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 winners USA their opponents. Only the Pool A winner is guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.
South Africa Under 20 squad
Forwards: Andrew Beerwinkle, Marne Coetzee, Aidon Davis, Luan de Bruin, Jacques du Plessis, Ockert du Toit, Irne Herbst, Jannes Kirsten, Devon Martinus, Sithembiso Sithole, Kwagga Smith, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp (captain), Dennis Visser, Michael WIllemse.
Backs: Robert du Preez, Justin Geduld, Cheslin Kolbe, Sylvian Mahuza, Luther Obi, Sergeal Petersen, Handrè Pollard, Seabelo Senatla, Jan Serfontein, Dries Swanepoel, Stefan Ungerer, Hanco Venter, Percy Williams.