The talented group of rugby players will assemble from Monday, 4 February at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport and will be together intermittently until the end of June.

Ten players return for a second stint with the SA Rugby Academy programme, including four who represented the Boks in last year’s World Rugby event in Cape Town.

The four capped Junior Boks in the squad are Zachary Porthen (prop, DHL Western Province), JF van Heerden (lock, Vodacom Bulls), Litelihle Bester and Jurenzo Julius (both centres from the Hollywoodbets Sharks).

The Academy is one of the key pillars in preparing the top juniors in the country make the step-up to the SA Under-20 squad. The well-structured programme was launched seven years ago and aims to balance formal education with high performance training and player welfare.

In announcing the group of Academy players, which consists of 21 forwards and 14 backs, Nhleko emphasised that the door is not closed to players who might have missed out.

A further eight players have been identified, but were not considered for the initial part of the programme because of injury.

According to the Junior Bok head coach, the provincial U20 and U19 competitions, as well as the Currie Cup, FNB Varsity Cup and the EPD programme have given them a very good idea of the wider group of players to consider for the Academy intake.

“We are pleased with the composition of the group and whilst we already started with the planning process last year, and continued with it into January, when we held some position specific and alignment camps, the hard work will now start in earnest,” said Nhleko.

“Our alignment and position specific camps gave us a very good opportunity to engage early with the players, as well as their coaches and conditioning staff.

“We could present to them what we expect from those selected and what they would need to do to improve on so that they can stay in consideration for the Academy Programme.”

Nhleko also mentioned they will continue to monitor a wider group of players and engage with coaches at provincial, universities, and clubs to ensure they track all the players in the system.

A number of training matches against senior provincial outfits are part of the plan to assist the Junior Boks in their preparations for the season, with South Africa again hosting the World Rugby U20 Championship for a second successive year in Cape Town during June and July, when the SA U20s will be pooled with England, Argentina, and Fiji in Group C.

The Junior Boks finished third last year after beating England in their bronze medal playoff game in the Athlone Stadium, while France defended their U20 world title successfully.

2024 SA Rugby Academy squad:

Props: Casper Badenhorst (Vodacom Bulls), Ronan Dutton (Lions), Reno Hirst (Lions), Mbasa Maquabela (Vodacom Bulls), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province)**, Ruan Swart (Vodacom Bulls).

Hookers: Luca Bakkes (DHL Western Province)*, CJ Erasmus (DHL Western Province), Juan Smal (Vodacom Bulls).

Locks: Keanu Coetzee (Vodacom Bulls), Ulrich van der Westhuizen (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Thomas Dyer (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Jaco Grobbelaar (Vodacom Bulls), Bathobele Hlekani (Hollywoodbets Sharks), JF van Heerden (Vodacom Bulls)**.

Loose forwards: JJ Theron (Vodacom Bulls), Sibabalwe Mahashe (Lions)*, Divan Fuller (DHL Western Province), Sphephelo Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Thabang Mphafi (Lions)*, Wandile Mlaba (DHL Western Province – will attend the programme intermittently).

Scrumhalves: Hassiem Pead (Lions), Ezekiel Ngubene (DHL Western Province).

Flyhalves: Liam Koen (Vodacom Bulls), Tyler Sefoor (Toyota Cheetahs)*, Thurlon Williams (Lions)*.

Centres: Litelihle Bester (Hollywoodbets Sharks)**, Joshua Boulle (DHL Western Province), Jurenzo Julius (Hollywoodbets Sharks)**, Philip-Albert van Niekerk (Vodacom Bulls).

Outside backs: Jayden Bantom (Vodacom Bulls), Michail Damon (Vodacom Bulls), Alfondso Isaacs (Vodacom Bulls), Joel Leotlela (DHL Western Province & SA Sevens)*, JC Mars (DHL Western Province).

* Denotes players selected for the 2023 Academy Programme
** Denotes players selected for the 2023 Academy Programme and Junior Boks

The following group of players are presently injured and were not consideration for the initial phase of the SA Rugby Academy programme: Nicolas Snyman (prop, Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ethan Bester (hooker, Hollywoodbets Sharks), Adam de Waal, Andre Goedhals (locks, both DHL Western Province), Asad Moos (scrumhalf, DHL Western Province), Bruce Sherwood, Grant de Jager (centres, both DHL Western Province), Gino Cupido (outside back, DHL Western Province).

Litelihle Bester.

Litelihle Bester.

Jurenzo Julius.

Jurenzo Julius.

Zachary Porthen.

Zachary Porthen.

JF van Heerden.

JF van Heerden.