South Africa coach Dawie Theron has named a strong Junior Springboks side bolstered by several players with Super Rugby experience as they seek to regain the IRB Junior World Championship crown they won in 2012.
The 2014 edition, which takes place in New Zealand from 2-20 June, will be Theron’s fourth as coach with South Africa finishing fifth in 2011, breaking the Baby Blacks’ title dominance in 2012 and then third in France last year.
Fly half Handré Pollard (Blue Bulls), centre André Esterhuizen (Sharks), wing Sergeal Petersen and number 8 Aidon Davis (Southern Kings) as well as hooker Malcolm Marx (Lions) have all either played Super Rugby or have been part of their respective franchise’s training groups.
Pollard, Davis and Jesse Kriel all played at JWC 2013 with the former having also been part of the victorious squad of 2012. Wing Petersen was included in the squad for the tournament after a stunning debut with the Kings in Super Rugby, but was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
The 2014 squad interestingly features two sets of twins in flanker Jean-Luc and second row Daniel du Preez – whose other brother Robert played at JWC 2013 – and full back Jesse and centre Dan Kriel.
Theron and the national selectors, Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh, selected the 28-man squad following an intensive identification and trials process. More than 50 players attended the training camp which ran for almost three weeks in Stellenbosch and included two trial matches as well as several training games.
The JWC 2014 squad returned to their training base in Stellenbosch on Tuesday to continue their preparations for the tournament, which will include a three-match series against traditional rivals Argentina from 2-10 May in the Western Cape.
“Our players are used to dry and fast fields and we will encounter the opposite of these conditions in New Zealand. These were obvious factors we had to take into account when selecting the squad,” explained Theron, whose side will face hosts New Zealand, Samoa and Scotland in Pool C.
“We will now intensify our preparations. The series against Argentina will give us an ideal opportunity to test our game plan, readiness and decision-making against a very competitive team and in real match situations.”
South Africa squad for JWC 2014
Forwards: Cyle Brink (Golden Lions), Aidon Davis (EP Kings), Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks), Dan du Preez (Sharks), Thomas du Toit (Sharks), Joseph Dweba (Free State), Corniel Els (Blue Bulls), Wilco Louw (Blue Bulls), Thabo Mabuza (Golden Lions), Malcolm Marx (Golden Lions), Ngobisizwe Mxoli (Blue Bulls), Abongile Nonkontwana (Blue Bulls), JD Schickerling (Western Province), Pierre Schoeman (Blue Bulls), Victor Sekekete (Golden Lions), Dayan van der Westhuizen (Blue Bulls), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Blue Bulls).
Backs: Jean-Luc du Plessis (Sharks), Andrè Esterhuizen (Sharks), Warrick Gelant (Blue Bulls), Lloyd Greef (Leopards), Dan Kriel (Blue Bulls), Jesse Kriel (Blue Bulls), Duncan Mathews (Blue Bulls), Mthokozisi (Zee) Mkhabela (Free State), Sergeal Petersen (EP Kings), Handrè Pollard (Blue Bulls), Justin (JP) Smith (Blue Bulls).