SA Schools coach Chris October on Wednesday announced his squad to face England in their opening International Under-18 Series clash on Friday at the City Park Stadium in Cape Town.
Western Province and Paarl Gym No8 Rikus Bothma will lead the squad which features seven players who took part of the victorious SA Schools team last season. These players are the Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc, Ox Nche, Justin Philips, Duhan van der Merwe, Warrik Gelant, Abongile Nonkontwana and Jurie Linde.
The squad boasts a fine balance of players from the traditional rugby schools in the country with Afrikaans Hoër Seuns (Affies), Outeniqua High School and Paarl Gymnasium each featuring three players.
The Paarl Gym duo of Bothma and Jacques Vermeulen, in particular, will rely on their familiarity with each other’s style of play to make their presence felt in a quality loose trio, while the powerful tight five will be determined to dominate in the scrums against the settled England side.
Among the backs Philips’ experience at this level and his effective distribution skills will be invaluable in guiding the team, while talented wings Grant Hermanus and Duhan van der Merwe both showed their ability to spot gaps and score tries at the Coca-Cola Craven Week, which could make them key figures on attack.
Looking ahead at the clash against England, October was optimistic about his team’s chances of starting the series on a high note.
He hoped the players would showcase their talent in what he anticipated would be a challenging clash.
“I was impressed with the players’ attitude at training this week and we expect them to transfer that onto the field,” said October.
“But we are under no illusions about the challenge ahead. We do not know a lot about the teams we will be facing in the next few days, but we are aware of the fact that they come off a Six Nations campaign, so they have played a few matches together already. With regards to England specifically I chatted to their coach after last year’s tournament and he mentioned that this year’s team would have been together for three years, so they should be a cohesive unit.
“But that said, South Africans generally boast immense pride and we have worked hard to gel as a team, and I believe we have achieved that.
There is no doubt this match is going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it.”
In the other matches Under-18 matches on Friday, Italy meet the Western Province Craven Week XV at 12h30 and France go up against Wales at 14h00.
SA Schools squad to face England:
15. EW Viljoen - Grey College
14. Grant Hermanus - Paarl Gym
13. Warrik Gelant - Outeniqua
12. Daniel du Plessis - Paul Roos Gymnasium
11. Duhan van der Merwe – Outeniqua
10. Brandon Thomson - Ermelo HS
9. Justin Philips – Waterkloof HS
8. Rikus Bothma (c) – Paarl Gym
7. Jacques Vermeulen – Paarl Gym
6. PJ Toerien – Garsfontein HS
5. RG Snyman - Affies
4. Daniel du Preez – Kearsney College
3. Ruan Kramer – Grey College
2. Joseph Dweba –Florida HS
1. Ox Nche – Louis Botha THS
16. Thomas du Toit – Paarl Boys High
17. Francois Steyn - Affies
18. Conrad van Vuren – Nelspruit HS
19. Abongile Nonkontwana - St Albans College
20. Jean-Luc du Preez – Kearsney College
21. Marco van Vuuren – Transvalia HS
22. Dewald Human – Outeniqua HS
23. Jurie Linde – Affies