The 2012 Junior World Championship was officially launched in Cape Town on Friday.
While the first match day will only be staged on Monday (4 June), tournament organisers opened the Junior World Championship at the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point.
Fronting the media was Cape Town acting mayor Grant Pascoe, minister of sport in the Western Cape Ivan Meyer, tournament director Philippe Bourdarias, Saru executive member Pat Kuhn and Saru general manager Andy Marinos.
Bourdarias said it was an ‘exciting time’ as the competition will be important for developments on and off the field.
‘I first arrived here two years ago, to meet the members of Saru, who were excited to host the event,’ said Bourdarias. ‘This is a very important tournament for the IRB. It’s the second biggest tournament, following the Rugby World Cup. So we have dedicated the necessary resources, time and money to ensure this will be well run.
‘The Junior World Championship is the stage for our future stars. The next generation of top rugby players will emerge here. This will be a very closely-contested competition and I won’t be surprised if there was a step up in physicality this year.
‘I would also like to thank the Western Cape government, Cape Town and the universities [Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape] for being good hosts so far. All participating teams will also contribute to the game in the region, by visiting local schools to spread their knowledge of the game to youngsters.’
Bourdarias did, however, admit his disappointment in the current ticket sales.
‘The last record of the ticket sales weren’t incredible,’ he added. ‘However, I’m told that most of the ticket sales will occur at the gate.’
Marinos called out to the public for their support.
‘So far, we are expecting 5 000 fans for the opening day. I think the ticket sales are set at reasonable prices [R50 reserved seats and R25 unreserved tickets are on sale]. We are hoping that the supporters will show up with their families.’
All 11 visiting U20 teams (Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland and Wales) are already settled in after landing earlier in the week. The 12 captains also had the opportunity to share their views at the launch.
Baby Boks captain Wiaan Liebenberg was confident that his team would become the second team to lift the trophy: ‘We are well prepared and raring to go. We are going all out to win the tournament. We will do South Africa proud.’
Bryn Hall, skipper of four-time champions New Zealand, believed his team could clinch a fifth consecutive title if they remained focused: ‘The weather has been much better compared to the conditions back home. We’ve settled in nicely and are preparing hard. If we stick to our structures, we will go far.’
South Africa, New Zealand and U20 Six Nations champions England will be the favourites for the title this year.
The Junior World Championship will be hosted at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch and the UWC Sports Ground in Bellville. The campaign will run from 4-22 June.
By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town