February 24, 2024

Bafana Nhleko beef up team for Pumas clash

CAPE TOWN – Flyhalf Jean Smith – the Junior Springboks leading scorer in their 2023 World Rugby Under-20 Championship campaign – will resume his role as the starting No 10 when South Africa take on Argentina at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Smith played in the team’s opening Pool C match against Georgia on the first day of the tournament and scored 18 points. Sam Francis then took over the number 10 jersey against Italy, but picked up an ankle injury early in the match, and has since been ruled out of the tournament.

Another points’ scorer against Georgia, Ethan Hooker, returns to the Junior Boks midfield, as will lock Coetzee le Roux. Hakeem Kunene is also back in the squad and will start at fullback, as he did against Georgia.

Uncapped tighthead prop Dian Heunis will make his first start in the tournament, as will replacement scrumhalf Asad Moos. The latter was brought into the squad on Saturday as an injury replacement for Francis.

Moos, who played for the South African Schools in the U18 International Series in 2022, trained with the Junior Boks in recent weeks and will be able to slot in without problems, according to Junior Springbok Head Coach, Bafana Nhleko.

“It’s desperately sad for Sam, who got injured in the opening quarter of the Italian game and we feel for him. That does create the opportunity for someone else, in this case Asad, who has slotted in immediately,” Nhleko said.

According to the coach, the team selection for Argentina rewards those players who did well in the opening two matches.

“We are in a tight spot and have to win this game in order to make the semi-finals, and I believe this team has the ability to do what is required,” Nhleko said. 

“I think the weather conditions so far in the tournament did not really give our backs any chance to show their worth, but we first have to deliver upfront and address our discipline. The weather conditions look promising for Tuesday and the playing surface at Athlone Stadium is a good one.

“We know Argentina would have been stung by their defeat to Georgia, but so were we in losing to Italy. The squad is determined to make that up for it and the fantastic support so far from the locals, and this performance should reflect that.”

Junior Springboks: 15. Hakeem Kunene, 14. Jurenzo Julius, 13. Katlego Letebele (vice-captain), 12. Ethan Hooker, 11. Michael Annies, 10. Jean Smith, 9. Imad Khan, 8. Cornѐ Beets, 7. Ghudian van Reenen, 6. Paul de Villiers (captain), 5. JF van Heerden, 4. Coetzee le Roux, 3. Dian Heunis, 2. Juann Else, 1. Cornè Lavagna. 

Replacements: 16. SJ Kotze, 17. Phatu Ganyane, 18. Zachary Porthen, 19. Jannes Potgieter, 20. Abulele Ndabambi, 21. Asad Moos, 22. Damian Markus, 23. Regan Izaks. 

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