Rikus Pretorius, Phendulani Buthelezi, David Coetzer, Asenathi Ntlabaka and David Kriel all played for the SA U20s last year, while the group also includes a host of 2018 SA Schools team players, amongst others vice-captain Muzi Manyike, as well as Celimpilo Gumede, Evan Roos, Emile van Heerden and Sibusiso Sangweni.

The Academy programme, which was launched in 2015, aims to balance formal education with high performance training and player welfare. Thanks to the vital support from corporates through the Rugby Education Foundation (REF) and Academy sponsors, Remgro (through the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport) and SuperSport, over 100 players have participated in the project and received education bursaries to date.

The 2019 programme, which kicks off on Sunday, 3 February and runs until 20 April, will be steered by Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux, assistant coach Bafana Nhleko and SA Rugby High Performance Manager, Louis Koen.

In line with the programme’s objective of ensuring holistic player development on and off the field, all the participants will be enrolled for various degrees, national diplomas, national certificates and short courses, which will be backed up by life skills and mentorship programmes and regular tutor sessions.

“These 45 players are among the best Under-19 and Under-20 players in the country, and we are delighted to assist in their development both and off the field,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“Last year we had 30 players in the programme, so it is fantastic that we have been able to include more players this year, and this is all thanks to our sponsors. I would like to thank the corporates who support our Rugby Education Foundation, as well as Remgro and SuperSport, for making this possible.”

Roux had high hopes for the squad and said: “The objective of the SA Rugby Academy is to develop top-class rugby players who can advance through our structures to the Junior Springboks and our senior national teams in future, and who can contribute to society off the field after rugby, and we believe this group of players has the potential to achieve that.

“The fact that most of these players have come through our SA Rugby Under-16 to Under-18 Elite Player Development structures is also evidence that our development programme is working.”

Buthelezi, Ntlabakanye, JJ van der Mescht and Fezokuhle Mbatha will join the squad at a later stage due to their Vodacom Super Rugby commitments.

SA Rugby Academy squad:

Props: Kudzwai Dube (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Keagan Glade (Xerox Golden Lions), Mthokozisi Gumede (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Hanro Jacobs (Cell C Sharks), Francois Klopper (Cell C Sharks), Nkosikhona Masuku (Xerox Golden Lions), Thabiso Mdletshe (Cell C Sharks), Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Xerox Golden Lions)

Hookers: Fezokuhle Mbatha (Cell C Sharks), Dameon Venter (Xerox Golden Lions), Joe van Zyl (Vodacom Blue Bulls)

Locks: Elrigh Louw (Toyota Free State), Lunga Ncube (Cell C Sharks), JJ van der Mescht (Cell C Sharks), Emile van Heerden (Cell C Sharks)

Loose forwards: Phendulani Buthelezi (Cell C Sharks), Vian Fourie (Cell C Sharks), Celimpilo Gumede (Cell C Sharks), Francke Horn (DHL Western Province), Jaco Labuschagne (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Jeandre Labuschagne (Cell C Sharks), Mandisi Mthiyane (Xerox Golden Lions), Dylan Richardson (Cell C Sharks), Evan Roos (Cell C Sharks), Sibusiso Sangweni (Xerox Golden Lions)

Scrumhalves: Vusile Dlepu (DHL Western Province), Sylvester Hassien (Leopards), Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks), Sanele Nohamba (Cell C Sharks)

Flyhalves: David Coetzer (DHL Western Province), Vaughen Isaacs (Vodacom Blue Bulls)

Centres: James Mollentze (Toyota Free State), Jay Cee Nel (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Rikus Pretorius (DHL Western Province), Marnus Potgieter (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Mnombo Zwelendaba (DHL Western Province)

Outside backs: Thaakir Abrahams (Cell C Sharks), Caleb Dingaan (Cell C Sharks), Sabastian Jobb (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Qamani Kota (Vodacom Blue Bulls), David Kriel (DHL Western Province), Asanda Kunene (Cell C Sharks), Muzi Manyike (Xerox Golden Lions), Prince Nkabinde (Xerox Golden Lions), Sibabalwe Xamlashe (DHL Western Province)