Baby Boks muscle upand speed to go all the way

2012-05-05 19:31

South Africa’s schoolboy rugby system is regarded as one of the best in the world.

But the tag has burdened them heavily in junior world rugby tournaments, as the last age group winners were the Under-19s of 2005 when the tournament was split into Under-19s and Under-21s.

Since 2008, when the age groups were fused into the Under-20 tournament, they have flattered to deceive, achieving three consecutive third places before finishing fifth in Italy last year.

With star flyhalf Johan Goosen set to miss the tournament because of injury, only Tshotsho Mbovane and Paul Jordaan return from last year’s team.

But the door is now open for other youngsters to make their mark, because, after all, it was in tournaments like these that the likes of John Smit and Schalk Burger made the rugby world sit up and take notice:

Dillyn Leyds (UCT Ikeys / Western Province): Even though last year’s team finished fifth, they were the top try scorers and the back three, especially Ulrich Beyers, were electric.

However, flyhalf Leyds showed in the Varsity Cup that he is cut from the same leather. Being the shining star in a team that struggled this year only served to enhance his reputation.

His type is similar to Israel Dagg and Kurtley Beale in terms of counter-attacking, game reading and the so-called X-factor.

His partnership with Mbovane and Jordaan is going to be crucial.

Jason Thomas (Bulls): During his days at Muir College, the hooker was fierce and physical.

Though South African forwards are world renowned for their strength and physical edge, there have been times when they have been found wanting at international level.

The fact that hookers who played in the past two tournaments have not gone on to feature in this one underscores how low the physical intent was.

Thomas has the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities.

Paul Willemse (Lions): It was in last year’s tournament when Eben Etzebeth laid down a marker and with the previous locks’ stocks facing a downturn, Willemse has a chance to catch the eye of senior selectors.

His inclusion in the Lions was indicative of the problems they encountered in the position and the youngster fared well in his Super Rugby debut against the Cheetahs before injuring his shoulder.

At 1.99m and 137kg, he adds meat to the side and will hopefully provide the necessary muscle.

Paul Jordaan (Sharks): As one of two players who took part in last year’s tournament, Jordaan’s experience and versatility will be much needed.

It will remain to be seen where Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron plays him, even though he has been put down as a wing.

His explosive pace could complete what could be the back three of the tournament, provided the Cape weather plays ball and the forwards provide clean ball. 

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