The Junior Springboks completed their preparations with one final training session in Stellenbosch on Monday, but they will travel to Italy for the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series without Canan Moodie, who was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury.
However, the Junior Boks were bolstered by the arrival of Stormers flyhalf Sacha Mngomezulu and Bulls lock Reinhardt Ludwig, who have both featured in the URC, on Sunday at their base camp in Stellenbosch.
Mngomezulu will captain the Junior Boks in Italy, with Ludwig and WP centre Ethan James named as his vice-captains. The Junior Boks will depart for Europe later on Monday.
Moodie injured his jaw in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final and as a result of his unavailability to tour to Italy, Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko was forced to make one chance to the 30-man squad, with Latica Nela coming in as replacement.
The Bulls player, who was a member of last year’s successful Junior Bok team which won the International Under-20 series in South Africa, has shown his versatility by playing at fullback and on the wing for the Vodacom Bulls in the Vodacom URC.
‘Exciting rugby talent’
Nela, a SA Rugby contracted player who has been part of this year’s Academy programme – which featured an enlarged U20 training group before it was trimmed down to the official 30-man squad – has also played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side.
“Canan is an exciting rugby talent and, having had the privilege of working with him last year, I am not surprised by the strides he has made this season with the Bulls,” said Nhleko.
“Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game, and his withdrawal now gives Latica an opportunity to be part of the tour. He has been part of our SA Rugby Academy programme for the past three months in Stellenbosch and is very familiar with our environment and our plans, so he should slot in very comfortably.”
Nhleko was pleased to announce his leadership group for the trip, with both Mngomezulu and Ludwig back for second stints with the SA Under-20 team.
“We purposefully kept the announcement of our team leaders until after the URC Final, so these young men could prepare as best as they could with their teams and without any added distractions, for what was a truly a special occasion for South African rugby,” explained Nhleko.
“The squad worked hard and prepared well during our Academy camp in Stellenbosch, and we are all looking forward to test ourselves against some very good, quality opposition in Italy.”
After enjoying a break from training duties, the group reassembled in Stellenbosch on Sunday afternoon and had one last training session on Monday before flying out in the early evening from Cape Town to Milan.
The Junior Boks will open their Summer Series commitments against England on Friday, 24 June, and that will be followed by their second match on Wednesday, 29 June against Ireland.
The South Africans will complete their pool fixtures on Tuesday, 5 July against France before playing a final cross-pool fixture one week later, on Tuesday, 12 July, with their opponent to be determined according to the final standings.
Junior Springbok squad:
Props: Lamla Nunu (WP), Corné Lavagna (Bulls), Juann Else (Bulls), Corné Weilbach (WP), Sebastian Lombard (Bulls), Sivu Mabece (Bulls).
Hookers: Lukhanyo Vokozela (WP), Tiaan Lange (Bulls).
Locks: Reinhardt Ludwig (Bulls), Corné Rahl (Sharks), Connor Evans (WP), Merwe Olivier (Bulls).
Loose forwards: Ruan Venter (Lions), Cameron Hanekom (Bulls), Siya Ningiza (Sharks), Gcino Mdletshe (Bulls), Paul de Villiers (WP), Louw Nel (WP).
Scrumhalves: Nico Steyn (Lions), Neil le Roux (Bulls), Imad Khan (WP).
Flyhalves: Sacha Mngomezulu (capt, WP), Compion von Ludwig (Bulls).
Centres: Carlton Banies (Bulls), Suleiman Hartzenberg (WP), Ethan James (WP).
Outside backs: Donovan Don (Griffons), Katlego Letebele (Bulls), Duran Koevort (WP), Latica Nela (SA Rugby Sevens contracted).