Junior Springboks coach, Bafana Nhleko, on Saturday named George Cronje to lead the team in the forthcoming Under-20 International Series, while also calling in two more players into his squad.
Nhleko confirmed the gifted Cheetahs loose forward to lead them in matches against Uruguay, Argentina and Georgia, and called up Brandon Wilkie and Kian Meadon (both Sharks) to extend the squad to 30 players.
"George will lead the squad for this very significant series, while he will be assisted by Jordan Hendrikse and Sasko Ndlovu, the other two players in the leadership group, said Nhleko.
"He is a quiet guy, but the right one to lead this group at this tournament. He leads from the front and leads with his deeds.
"He is the type of guy that puts the team first and that is one of our values within the group. His character exemplifies that and he is very inspirational in how he brings the team together."
Ndlovu is a very popular team member, while Hendrikse brings direction in the way they want to approach things, Nhleko explained.
"Both will assist George well. Sasko has got great respect amongst his peers and Jordan is a good driver in the team, and will be important for us in terms of our tactical approach."
Cronje said the reality of the announcement kicked in only after he was informed by Nhleko.
"At first I was just happy, but a couple of minutes later, it kicked it that the coach has entrusted our leadership group with an important task, something we will embrace to the best of our abilities," Cronje said.
"It will be important for us to make sure the squad are all pulling in the same direction and aim for the same outcome.
"We have an amazing group of players here and they have worked so hard to finally get this opportunity to play for their country at this stage of their careers, I do not think it will be a tough task, to be honest.
"Our jobs will actually be easy, we just need to make sure all the energy and focus flows in the same direction and the enjoyment of the task at hand will follow. We all want to enjoy this moment as well, so there will be smiles on faces too."
Cronje said the focus will shift to Uruguay now, the first opponent they will face when the series kicks off at Markötter Stadium in Stellenbosch next Friday.
Wilkie and Meadon have joined the squad as Nhleko opted to use the full complement of players allowed for the tournament.
"We only named 28 originally, but decided to rather add players to expand our depth a bit,” said the Junior Bok coach.
"Brandon has been part of our Academy all along, while Kian has been in our structures, playing SA Schools two years ago.
"When we assembled again last Friday after a short break, Zeilinga Strydom and Nico Steyn were ruled out because of medical concerns and Quan Horn (Lions) and Bradley Davids (Sharks) replaced them at centre and scrumhalf, respectively.
"It was disappointing for the two to miss out, but both Quan and Bradley came very close to the original selection the first time, so I am pleased they got their opportunity," Nhleko added.
The Junior Springboks face Uruguay on 18 June, Argentina on 23 June and Georgia on 28 June before the Under-20 International Series concludes with a final match day on 3 July, where the teams will be playing against each other based on their ranking in the tournament.
- SA Rugby