South Africa have only once failed to make the semi-finals of the World Rugby U20 Championship, yet their sole title success remains the one they lifted in their home campaign of 2012.

The Junior Springboks will want to put that right as they once again host the tournament on the Western Cape. But they will have their work cut out in Pool C.

Argentina, beaten by South Africa in the most recent bronze final in 2019, will be determined to reach a first final while Italy and Georgia continue to make strides at this level.

It all means that Pool C could potentially be one full of surprises when the action gets underway at Danie Craven Stadium and Paarl Gymnasium on 24 June.



Seeding for 2023: 3
Tournaments played: 12 (2008-19)
Best finish: Champions (2012)
Worst Finish: Fifth (2011)
U20 Championship match record: Played 60 / Won 43 / Drawn 1 / Lost 16
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 2,102 / 293

U20 Graduates: 55
Most capped U20 graduate: Eben Etzebeth (110 tests)

Did you know …? Handré Pollard, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Steven Kitshoff were all U20 Championship winners with the Junior Springboks on home soil in 2012 and then Rugby World Cup 2019 winners with the Springboks in Japan.

Coach: Bafana Nhleko
A former Golden Lions U21 coach, Nhleko joined the Junior Springboks as an assistant coach in 2018. Promoted to the top job in 2021, Nhleko led South Africa to the U20 Six Nations Summer Series 2022 title in Italy.

What he said: “I would like to congratulate the players who were selected, but also stress that the real hard work starts now – it’s a massive task to play in a world championship and even bigger privilege to be playing at home, with the challenge comes a big responsibility.”

Captain: Paul de Villiers

One to watch: Masande Mtshali
Described as a “warrior” by Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo ahead of his HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in Dubai, Mtshali travelled to five tournaments in his maiden season on the circuit. South Africa will hope to provide the winger with the space in which he can showcase his pace and finishing ability.

Squad: Michael Annies (Toyota Cheetahs), Corne Beets (Vodacom Bulls), Litelihle Bester (Cell C Sharks), Paul de Villiers (DHL Western Province), Juann Else (Vodacom Bulls), Sam Francis (Lions), Phatu Ganyane (Cell C Sharks), Dian Heunis (Cell C Sharks), Ethan Hooker (Cell C Sharks), Regan Izaks (Vodacom Bulls), Jurenzo Julius (Cell C Sharks), Imad Khan (DHL Western Province), SJ Kotze (Lions), Hakeem Kunene (Cell C Sharks), Corne Lavagna (Vodacom Bulls), Coetzee le Roux (Cell C Sharks), Neil le Roux (Vodacom Bulls), Katlego Letebele (Vodacom Bulls), Damian Markus (DHL Western Province), Mawande Mdanda (Vodacom Bulls), Gcinokuhle Mdletshe (Vodacom Bulls), Masande Mtshali (SA Sevens contracted), Abulele Ndabambi (Vodacom Bulls), Quewin Nortje (Vodacom Bulls), Zachary Porthen (DHL Western Province), Jannes Potgieter (Cell C Sharks), Jean Smith (Cell C Sharks), JF van Heerden (Vodacom Bulls), Ghudian van Reenen (Vodacom Bulls), Tiaan Wessels (Lions).


Seeding for 2023: 4
Tournaments played: 12 (2008-19)
Best finish: Third (2016)
Worst finish: 11th (2009, 2017)
U20 Championship match record: Played 60 / Won 29 / Lost 31
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 1,398 / 162

U20 graduates: 85
Most capped U20 graduate: Nicolás Sánchez (95 tests)

Did you know …? Argentina were involved in the only kicking competition in U20 Championship history, beating Wales 9-8 to reach the fifth-place play-off in 2010

Coach: Álvaro Galindo
Former Los Pumas flanker Galindo, who won 13 caps for his country between 2004-12, is preparing for his first U20 Championship as Argentina coach. Having joined the Unión Argentina de Rugby as a regional academy manager in 2017, he became U18 coach a year later and is keen to balance development with performance in South Africa.

What he said: “A first objective in South Africa is for the team to be able to do on the field what we have been working on for several months, and to acquire an identity through, above all, defence, which is a characteristic of any Argentine team. The other objective, which is more linked to experience, is player development. They are going to live a World Cup event for 30 days, in which they are going to train, play, review plays, play again. It is a very intense experience, and they will compete at the best possible level.”

Captain: Eliseo Chiavassa

One to watch: Mateo Soler
Named in the Argentina squad alongside his brother Valentín, the pair are the sons of former Puma Facundo Soler. Mateo can play anywhere along the back-three and his performances for Dogos during Super Rugby Americas 2023 earned him a place in the team of the tournament and also the young player of the tournament award.

Squad: Felipe Bares (Los Tilos), Tiziano Barrios (Duendes RC), Tomás Bartolini (Marista Rugby Club), Juan Bautista Baronio (Jockey Club de Rosario), Aitor Bildosola (Los Tordos), Marcos Camerlinckx (Regatas Bella Vista), Eliseo Chiavassa (Los Tilos), Tomás Di Biase (Deportiva Francesca), Valentino Dicapua (Duendes RC), Efrain Elías (Jockey Club de Córdoba), Benjamin Elizalde (Deportiva Francesca), Lautaro Fanlo (Lince), Facundo García Hamilton (Tucumán Rugby Club), Ernesto Giudice (Mendoza RC), Benjamin Grondona (Champagnat), Nicolás López González (Tucumán Rugby Club), Mateo Lorenzo (La Plata Rugby Club), Ignacio Lucero (Mendoza RC), Felipe Mallía (Jockey Club de Córdoba), Matías Medrano (Bella Vista Regattas), Valentino Minoyetti (Buenos Aires C&RC), Agustin Moyano (Córdoba Athletic), Francisco Palazzi (Old Lions), Federico Rolotti (La Tablada), Faustino Sánchez Valarolo (Palermo Bajo), Mateo Soler (Tala Rugby Club), Valentín Soler (Tala Rugby Club), Nicolás Viola (Jockey Club de Córdoba), Juan Manuel Vivas (Los Tordos), Renzo Zanella (Comercial, Mar del Plata).


Seeding for 2023: 9
Tournaments played: 10 (2008-09, 2011-12, 2014-19)
Best finish: Eighth (2017, 2018)
Worst finish: 13th (2009 – last year of 16 teams)
U20 Championship match record: Played 50 / Won 14 / Lost 36
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 828 / 103

U20 graduates: 75 (67 Championship, eight Trophy)
Most capped U20 graduate: Tommaso Allan (70 tests)

Did you know …? Only five players have scored more U20 Championship tries than Italian winger Giovanni D’Onofrio, who crossed the whitewash eight times between 2017-18. New Zealander Tevita Li is the tournament’s most prolific try-scorer, having scored 13 times across the 2014 and 2015 Championships.

Coach: Massimo Brunello
A former Italy winger, who played eight tests for his country between 1988-93, Brunello got his first taste of the U20 Championship as an assistant coach when the tournament was last held in South Africa in 2012. Following five years in charge of Calvisano, Brunello took the U20 job in 2020 and led the Azzurrini to a third-place finish in the 2023 U20 Six Nations.

What he said: “We are aware of who we are and what we can do, we come from a sequence of high-level competitions that have built the right approach to important appointments in the boys. But even more, we all know that we can count on boys with profound values, who fully feel what it means to wear the Azzurrini jersey, and with whom the relationship is one of true trust. We are eager to fly to South Africa and give our best for our country, knowing that the pool is complicated, but also [that is the case] for the opponents we will face.”

Captain: Giovanni Quattrini

One to watch: Marcos Francesco Gallorini
Italy’s forward power impressed during the 2023 U20 Six Nations and no one player contributed more to that effort than tight-head prop Gallorini. Despite being only 18, he proved more than a match for his opposite numbers and ended the tournament with five tries to his name. He will hope to have a similar impact in South Africa.

Squad: Destiny Aminu (Mogliano Veneto Rugby), Riccardo Bartolini (Cavalieri Union Prato Sesto), Sebastiano Battara (Mogliano Veneto Rugby), Mirko Belloni (Verona Rugby), Carlos Berlese (Ruggers Tarvisium), Matteo Bernardinello (Petrarca Rugby), Francesco Bini (Florentina Rugby), Jacopo Botturi (Rugby Calvisano), Nicola Bozzo (USA Perpignan), Filippo Bozzoni (Rugby Calvisano), Simone Brisighella (Rugby Viadana), Lorenzo Casilio (Rugby Paese), Matthias Leon Douglas (Mogliano Veneto Rugby), Lorenzo Elettri (Rugby Rovigo Delta), Marcos Gallorini (UR Capitolina), Nicholas Gasperini (Stade Français), Alessandro Gesi (Livorno Rugby), Francesco Imberti (CUS Torino), Filippo Lavorenti (CUS Torino), Alex Mattioli (Colorno Rugby), David Odiase (US Oyonnax), Dewi Passarella (Benetton Rugby), Federico Domenico Pisani (Verona Rugby), Enrico Pontarini (Rugby Casale), Giovanni Quattrini (Rugby Milano), Fabio Ruaro (Rugby Parma FC 1931), Matteo Rubinato (Rugby Paese), Giovanni Sante (Montpellier Herault Rugby), Samuele Taddei (Rugby Noceto FC), Pietro Turrisi (Racing Club Paris).


Seeding for 2023: 10
Tournaments played: 4 (2016-19)
Best finish: Ninth (2018)
Worst finish: 10th (2016, 2017, 2019)
U20 Championship match record: Played 20 / Won 7 / Lost 13
U20 Championship points/tries scored: 347 / 42

U20 graduates: 63 (27 Championship and 36 Trophy)
Most capped U20 graduate: Lasha Khmaladze (U20 Trophy – 94 tests)

Did you know …? Georgia warmed up for the U20 Championship with a 40-38 defeat of England in Tbilisi.

Coach: Lado Kilasonia
Despite only turning 38 in March, Kilasonia has been involved with the Junior Lelos since 2012, when he became an assistant coach ahead of the U20 Trophy in Salt Lake City, USA. He continued in that role until taking over as head coach for the team’s commitments in South Africa two years ago, the high point of his tenure to date coming against England in Tbilisi earlier this month.

What he said: “We will aim to improve with every game and to stick to our philosophy of how we want to play. I don’t like to speak to about the future, I like to speak when the job is done. This is why we are very excited about competing at the U20 Championship, it is the first step for a player on their way to playing senior international rugby and when we find out how they compare to the talent in other nations.”

Captain: Lasha Tsikhistavi

One to watch: Tornike Kakhoidze
In his third season as part of the U20 set-up despite still being only 19, Kakhoidze looks destined to be a mainstay in the Lelos midfield for years to come. Having made his U20 debut at 17, he was called up to the senior Georgia squad for the first time at the beginning of 2022 and made his test debut against Germany during the Rugby Europe Championship 2023.

Squad: Sergo Abramishvili (Stade Français), Irakli Aptsiauri (Grenoble), Shalva Aptsiauri (Lelo Saracens), Nika Babunashvili (Lelo Saracens), Giorgi Gergedava (ASM Clermont), Guram Ghaniashvili (Grenoble), Tornike Ghaniashvili (Lelo Saracens), Aleksandre Jighauri (Lelo Saracens), Tornike Kakhoidze (Lelo Saracens), Gela Kheladze (Lelo Saracens), Basa Khonelidze (Aurillacois), Luka Khorbaladze (Lelo Saracens), Davit Khuroshvili (Lelo Saracens), Petre Khutsishvili (Aurillacois), Luka Kobauri (USA Perpignan), Nikoloz Kprashvili (RC Kochebi), Nika Lomidze (RC Kharebi), Giorgi Mamaiashvili (Grenoble), Davit Mchedlidze (RC Toulonnais), Vazha Mikadze (Lelo Saracens), Giorgi Nikoladze (AIA Kutaisi), Lasha Pkhakadze (USON Nevers), Nicolas Ragoevi (USON Nevers), Nikoloz Sakvarelidze (Aurillacois), Georges Shvelidze (CA Brive), Tamaz Tchamiashvili (RC Kharebi), Badri Tsikhistavi (Bayonnais), Lasha Tsikhistavi (Bayonnais), Luka Tsirekidze (Lelo Saracens), Rati Zazadze (USON Nevers).

Pool C Fixtures (kick-off times local, GMT+2)

Saturday, 24 June

11:00 – Argentina v Italy – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
19:00 – South Africa v Georgia – Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch

Thursday, 29 June

16:00 – South Africa v Italy – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
16:30 – Argentina v Georgia – Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch

Tuesday, 4 July

11:00 – Italy v Georgia – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
19:00 – South Africa v Argentina – Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town

All squads are subject to change