In naming the 16 players to join the Green and Gold squads in Cape Town, Rassie Erasmus (Director of Rugby) said the decision was made to give the youngsters the opportunity to get a taste of the Springbok environment and learn from experienced Test players, while it also afforded the national coaches the opportunity to gain insight into some of the top emerging talent in the country.
“These youngsters have had their year completely disrupted by the pandemic,” said Erasmus. “But we have not stopped tracking them or planning for their future and they will find out that we have a road map already prepared for their further development.”
Due to injuries and other reasons, three of the 16 were even named in the respective match-day squads for Saturday’s Castle Lager Springbok Showdown – Kwenzo Blose (prop), JJ van der Mescht (lock) and Kade Wolhuter (utility back), who was still in matric at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch last year.
Unfortunately, Mnombo Zwelendaba (utility back) missed out on a playing opportunity due to injury, while the other 12 had a great opportunity to rub shoulders with experienced Springboks, as well as a number of guys who have successfully progressed from the Junior Boks to the senior ranks.
Phepsi Buthelezi, last year’s Junior Springbok captain, could hardly hide his excitement about the week he had Cape Town.
“What an amazing week it had been – rubbing shoulders with some of the Rugby World Cup winners such as Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn,” said Buthelezi, who played Currie Cup rugby for the Cell C Sharks last year.
“It has been really good for me as a player – I learnt so much in a short space of time and there is so much I will take away from this week, going back to my union and trying to improve my game.
“Also, working with all the Springbok coaches was amazing for me – to see how they do things at the Boks and how they prepare for games. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and hopefully I can return one day.”
Uys, a star for the Junior Boks in 2018 who made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls earlier this year, was equally excited about the week in Cape Town.
“I learnt a lot this week,” said Uys.
“It was very special getting a taste of the Springbok environment and for me as a youngster, it’s something I will never forget.
“Working with some of the Rugby World Cup winners was really nice and they helped me a lot. To learn from them, see how they do things, being around them and working together was great for us youngsters.”
The other 10 young guns who were part of the Green and Gold squads, were Nathan McBeth, Kudzwai Dube, Asenathi Ntlabakanye (all props), Fez Mbatha, Morne Brandon (both hookers), Emile van Heerden (lock), Evan Roos, Celimpilo Gumede (both looseforwards), Bernard van der Linde and Thomas Bursey (both scrumhalves).