March 5, 2024

Nhleko tweaks Junior Bok squad for England

CAPE TOWN – Damian Markus will earn a first start for the Junior Springboks against England on Friday, while SA U20 head coach Bafana Nhleko was also forced to make a few changes due to injuries for their World Rugby U20 Championship third-place playoff at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town.

Markus played off the bench in all four matches of the tournament thus far, and on Friday will run out at the inside centre, while Hakeem Kunene (fullback. shoulder), JF van Heerden (lock, shoulder) and Ghudian van Reenen (flanker, concussion) have been ruled out of the match.

Regan Izaks will start at fullback, as he did against Italy in Paarl, while Hennie Sieberhagen has been drafted into the squad to replace Van Reenen and will make his debut in the No 7 jersey. The former Paarl Gimnasium pupil was in die wider squad, but just missed out on final selection and will now get a chance to show his mettle.

Tiaan Wessels, who made his debut against Italy, will earn a second cap at lock in place of Van Heerden, while Quewin Nortje (wing) and Neil le Roux (scrumhalf) will also start – having last done that against Italy – with Michael Annies and Imad Khan playing off the bench this time.

Nhleko also changed his props. Mawande Mdanda and Phatu Ganyane will pack down together, having last done so in the tournament opener against Georgia. On the bench, flanker Gcinokuhle Mdletshe will also see some action having last played against Italy.

“We said at the start of the tournament that we wanted to give everyone a taste of Test match rugby,” said Nhleko.

“We did that, but the injuries and the result against Ireland have now given us another opportunity to expand on that, which means we will have some fresh bodies in the squad to face England. We lost Hakeem, JF and Ghudian due to injury, while Neil is back after missing two games due to HIA protocols.

“We are sad to lose those three players, but at the same time happy for someone like Hennie. He has trained with us with great enthusiasm even after being told that he did not make the squad and it is great for him to have that attitude rewarded.

“We still have a lot to play for. We looked at the way England play and planned accordingly; we believe we have named a squad that will suit us in what we want to achieve.”

Nhleko said they still have a job to do in the tournament: “With the short turnaround, we had to put the Ireland result behind us. We have another opportunity to represent the country and the reality is for some of these guys, it will most likely be their last time, so we must make sure we give a good account of ourselves. This will be the last opportunity for this group to show their value and skill.”

Nhleko is hoping for a more consistent 80 minutes from the squad: “We have had good periods of play in this tournament but not enough to put a commanding performance. I have asked every player to make sure he uses this opportunity to leave a positive mark behind his name. We are going to need that against England.”

Junior Springbok team:

15. Regan Izaks, 14. Jurenzo Julius, 13. Katlego Letebele (vice-captain, 12. Damian Markus, 11. Quewin Nortje, 10. Jean Smith, 9. Neil le Roux, 8. Corné Beets, 7. Hennie Sieberhagen, 6. Paul de Villiers (captain), 5. Tiaan Wessels, 4. Coetzee le Roux, 3. Mawande Mdanda, 2. Juann Else, 1. Phatu Ganyane.

Replacements:

16. SJ Kotze, 17. Corné Lavagna, 18. Zachary Porthen, 19. Abulele Ndabambi, 20. Gcinokuhle Mdletshe, 21. Imad Khan, 22. Litelihle Bester, 23. Michael Annies. 

Source: SA Rugby

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