Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Junior Springboks were dealt a big blow before their World Rugby Under-20 Championship semifinal against England after powerful lock Hendré Stassen was ruled out with a knee injury.

Stassen was an enormous presence in the Junior Boks’ last two games against Georgia and Argentina‚ which were won 38-14 and 72-14.

They face England in the last four in Tbilisi on Tuesday‚ in a repeat of 2016’s semifinal‚ which England won 39-17.

The 2016 SA Schools captain Salmaan Moerat replaces Stassen in the only change to the starting XV that thrashed the Pumitas last Thursday‚ and he will need to produce the game of his life against the highly physical England pack.

Stassen is a huge physical presence at 2.01m and 116kg and has great skills and a high work rate.

Moerat has heaps of potential, but has not had the same impact in his outings so far. He has a great opportunity against England to change that.

Coach Chean Roux was forced into two changes on the bench as well‚ with prop Lee-Marvin Mazibuko replacing Wikus Groenewald‚ who has the flu‚ while Reinhard Nothnagel will provide back-up for Moerat and Van Heerden.

"We looked at England’s strengths and we think these are the best combinations for us for the semifinal‚" Roux said.

Roux said he is expecting a physical onslaught from the defending champions England‚ but added his team’s focus was on delivering a quality performance to advance to the final.

England defeated Ireland
45-21 in the 2016 Manchester final to win the competition for a second time in three years.

"This is a big game for us‚" said Roux. "England are full of confidence. But, that said‚ our plans are in place as a team and we just need to go out there and execute them."

Six Nations champions England were nearly eliminated before claiming a last-gasp
20-19 win over Australia in their final pool match last week.

"This group has got huge character‚ they have shown it against Ireland to win the Grand Slam and they showed it against Australia to get us into this semi-final‚" England coach Tony Williams said.

"SA are an interesting team‚ because they provide two separate types of challenges — they have a big pack and some quick and exciting backs."

New Zealand‚ who missed out on the semifinals for the first time in 2016‚ will take on France in the other semifinal.

France were in the Junior Boks’ pool and drew 23-23
with SA in the opening match of the tournament.

They were also Six Nations runners-up.

TMG Digital

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