Damian Markus is poised to earn his first starting spot for the Junior Springboks as they face England in the third-place play-off of the World Rugby U20 Championship on Friday. Kick-off is scheduled for 4:30 pm.
Markus has excelled as a super-sub for the South African team, showcasing his skills in previous matches. However, due to injuries, Bafana Nhleko, the SA U20 coach, has been compelled to make a few changes to the lineup.
Fullback Hakeem Kunene (shoulder), lock JF van Heerden (shoulder), and flanker Ghudian van Reenen (concussion) will be sidelined.
Nhleko has opted to replace them with fullback Regan Izaks, flanker Hennie Sieberhagen (making his debut), and lock Tiaan Wessels.
In addition, props Mawande Mdanda and Phatu Ganyane, scrumhalf Neil le Roux, and winger Quewin Nortjie will also be granted starting positions on Friday.
“Our intention from the beginning of the tournament was to provide everyone with a taste of Test match rugby,” stated Nhleko during the team announcement.
“We achieved that goal, but injuries and the outcome against Ireland have presented us with another opportunity to further expand on that, resulting in some fresh faces joining the squad to face England.”
- Advertisement -
“We still have a lot at stake. We have analyzed England’s style of play and have planned accordingly. We firmly believe that the selected squad will suit our objectives and what we aim to achieve.” He added.
If the Junior Springboks wish to secure third place in the tournament, they must rise to the physical challenge posed by their English counterparts, particularly their formidable pack of forwards.
The South African team has encountered difficulties against the robust European forward units throughout the championship, starting with their opening match against Georgia.
The effectiveness of the Baby Boks’ backline has been somewhat stifled in the tournament, with a few standout individual performances but an overall struggle to shine. Unfavorable weather conditions and muddy fields hampered their progress in the initial matches.
Furthermore, the team has suffered from a lack of possession due to their retreating forward pack, which proved particularly problematic in the semi-final clash against Ireland.
According to Nhleko, this match presents a final opportunity for several players to demonstrate their worth in the Junior Springboks jersey before moving on.
“We had to quickly put the result against Ireland behind us due to the short turnaround. We now have another chance to represent our country, and the reality is that for some of these players, it will likely be their last time. Therefore, it is essential that we deliver a strong performance.”
The upcoming game marks the culmination of this group’s journey, providing a final opportunity to showcase their skills and value.