Varsity Cup alumni reach U20 semifinals, end New Zealand hopes

The Junior Springboks have reached the semifinals of World Rugby U20 Championship, with Varsity Cup alumni featuring prominently in their campaign to date.

Chean Roux’s charges completed the pool stage of the tournament, held in Argentina this year, on Wednesday evening by beating New Zealand 25-17. By denying the ‘Baby Blacks’ a bonus point, the Junior Springboks eliminated the six-times winners from this year’s tournament - with France claiming a last four berth instead.

UP-Tuks 2019 flyer Vaughen Isaacs scored the opening try of the clash, his first in green-and-gold after making his debut in the opening fixture against Scotland, which they won 43-19. He had less luck in the second fixture against Georgia, when he was one of two South Africans players sin-binned - though they still won 48-20.

Just like Isaacs, Marnus Potgieter (UP-Tuks 2018) and James Mollentze (UFS Shimlas 2019) have also started all three pool matches, as part of what has been an enterprising backline. Mollentze - who visited the afkoelstoel against New Zealand - has been the marshal at flyhalf while Potgieter the hard-running outside centre.

Maties Young Guns’ Dian Bleuler, who also only made his Junior Springboks debut at the tournament has been rock solid in the No. 1 jersey.

The only other student who has earned a starting berth so far is Elrigh Louw, the UFS Shimlas lock who was a towering presence in the pool decider on Wednesday. He also came on as a ‘finisher’ against Georgia.

While the rest of the Varsity Cup alumni, hooker Dameon Venter and loosehead prop Keagan Glade (both Wits 2019), as well as tighthead prop Kudzwai Dube (UP-Tuks Young Guns 2018) have yet to be run-on players, all three have played as replacements in all three pool matches.

The Junior Springboks - who are seeking a first U20 world title since 2012 - will next face defending champions France in the semifinals. That clash will take place on Monday, 17 June (20:30 SA time) back at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario where they have played all their matches so far.