Eastern Province and Grey High School Under-20 Springbok No 8 Junior Pokomela will lead the SA U20 team in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship bronze playoff against Argentina at the AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester on Saturday in the absence of regular skipper Jeremy Ward – another product of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Province and Grey High School, as coach Dawie Theron made six changes to his team.
Ward is serving a two-week suspension for a dangerous tackle, which prompted Theron to hand the captaincy to Pokomela. Centre JT Jackson, who is playing in his second successive World Rugby U20 Championship, has been named the vice-captain, as the team’s second vice-captain Ernst van Rhyn was not named in the match-day squad.
Saturday’s match will bring down the curtain on Theron’s six-year reign as Junior Springbok coach. He will join the Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan next month.
The changes to the team will see the front row of hooker Jan-Henning Campher and props Franco van den Berg and Carlü Sadie start in place of Tango Balekile, Nicolaas Oosthuizen and Jaco Holtzhausen respectively, while flanker Cobus Wiese takes over from Van Rhyn in the loose trio.
In the backline, Franco Naude comes in at outside centre, while Stedman Gans will make his first appearance in the competition on the right wing in place of Mosolwa Mafuma.
Leopards flyhalf Benhard Janse van Rensburg, who joined the team on Thursday as injury cover, has been named on the bench alongside Balekile, Oosthuizen, prop Kwenzo Blose, lock Eduard Zandberg, No 8 Denzel Hill, scrumhalf James Hall and fullback Keanu Vers.
“The last few days have been tough for the players, with S’busiso Nkosi and Embrose Papier returning home and Jeremey Ward being suspended for a dangerous tackle,” said Theron. “We also have a few niggling injuries, which we had to consult the medical team about, and on that basis we made a few changes. This is the freshest team available to take on Argentina.”
Theron expected a tough contest against the South Americans, who defeated the Junior Boks 19-13 in their second pool match in the international showpiece, but he said the team was determined to finish the competition on a high note.
“Argentina will be very passionate,” said Theron. “They will be pleased with their performance in the competition up to now, especially since they advanced to the semi-final.
“We are expecting them to disruptive once again, especially in the set pieces. But we will be ready for them.”
Commenting on the fact that the clash marks his final match in charge of the Junior Springboks, Theron said: “It is the end of six wonderful years with the SA U20’s, and I would like us to end the tournament on a high note. I would like to see the team go out there and enjoy themselves, and put together a brilliant performance for South Africa.”
Junior Springbok team vs Argentina in the World Rugby U20 Championship bronze playoff:
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