Baby Bok coach under no illusions

Coach Eric Sauls is under no illusion about what his Baby Boks will be up against at the inaugural IRB Junior World Cup Championship in Wales, starting on June 6.


Sauls’ concerns which he aired at Tuesday’s SA Under 20 team announcement at SA Rugby’s headquarters in Newlands, stems from the fact that the fancied Australian and New Zealand squads will include several players with Super 14 inexperience.


Also, the UK teams and France play in an Under 20 Six Nations tournament, which ensured players from those countries regular exposure on the international stage.


“Many of the teams that we will be up against include players who regularly as a team, especially the UK teams,” said Sauls.


“Many of the countries have included the bulk of the teams that played in last year’s Under-19 World Cup.”

 

Sauls pointed out that he was sitting with the problem which came about because many of the players seldom get to play at levels higher than club rugby.

“These guys need to compete, let’s say at Vodacom Cup level, but now they will be playing against internationals. It would have helped if these black players were placed at provinces where they could get game time in Vodacom Cup competition.


“I noticed last week that the Aussie Super 14 side, the Reds, started with five Under 20 players in their starting line-up. “And this is kind of competition our team will be up against.”


No sooner had Sauls expressed his fears when Australia announced their side for Wales, and it included an astonishing 10 players with Super 14 experience.


In stark comparison, the SA Under 20 side includes only two players with Super 14 experience.


They are the Bulls duo of Stephan Dippenaar (centre) and Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf ).


SARU CEO Johan Prinsloo said he had several concerns, one of which was that the team did not include enough black players.


“This squad has two less black players than last year’s side,” said Prinsloo.


“I do believe more players of colour could have made the side but over the period of a year there’s some doubt about whether their skills have developed.

 

“Every player needs to work from the same base and this is also the stage where we lose (black) players through to the senior level. We are waiting too long to expose these players at senior level.”

 

Prinsloo said that Saru’s high performance staff had to find a way of scouring for talent, especially in the rural areas.

 

Prinsloo added, one way of addressing the matter would be to field a SA Under 20 side in next year’s Vodacom Cup competition to ensure more game time, especially for the black players

. Herman Masimla, the High Performance manager at Saru, said the conservative nature prevailing in South African rugby meant that players were not getting the chance to play beyond club levels.


“It’s one area where we fall behind countries like New Zealand,” said Masimla.


“Limited exposure is troubling South African rugby. We hardly have any blacks playing Vodacom Cup, and only one in this squad has played Vodacom this season.”

 

Sauls said that there were no plans afoot to play warm-up matches ahead of the squad’s departure at the end of the match.

“We’ve had home and away matches against France and that will do,” said Sauls.


“Our squad training will be delayed by a week because so many players from the Blue Bulls and Free State will be in action in Vodacom Cup final next Friday.”


The Blue Bulls have 11 caps in the 26-member SA Under 20 squad, and Free State have four.


The Under 20 tournament which will be known as the IRB Junior World Cup, will be played for the first time and comes after the merging of the IRB Under 19 and Under 21 tournaments.


The tour

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