Springbok captain Jean de Villiers gave a stirring motivational speech to South Africa's U20 team at their base camp in Stellenbosch on Thursday.
The Baby Boks were addressed by the senior national captain on the eve of their departure to Argentina, where they will be in action in two matches against the Argentine U20 side. The matches on 12 and 16 May will be played in Rosario.
Both teams will use the two-match series as their final preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship which takes place next month in Italy.
De Villiers took time out of his busy rehabilitation schedule to encourage the group of future South African stars. During his talk he shared some valuable lessons he has learnt during his illustrious playing career.
The popular Springbok captain reminded the youngsters of the huge responsibility of playing for their country and he also encouraged them to enjoy the experience as much as they can.
He also explained the role rugby has played over many years to inspire and unite South Africans from all walks of life.
“When you put on your national colours, you must pause and think of the many great players who have done so before you,” said De Villiers.
“No matter what age group your represent or code you play in, when you pull on your national colours it comes with a huge responsibility because you then play for the entire country.”
He described his own journey as a junior, when he was a member of the successful SA U21 team that won the world championship crown under the guidance of Jake White in 2002.
“Thirteen players from that group graduated to play for the Springboks, and I am sure that there are plenty of future Springbok greats sitting here amongst you,” he said.
“The reality is that rugby is a contact sport and you must approach each match at this level as if it is your last. That means that you must play for team mates because they’re the ones that will make you successful.
“Enjoy the trip and the many friendships, but you must always know that when you pull on that national colours, your conduct on and off the field must be exemplary so that you are a credit to your team and your country.”
The Baby Boks fly out on Friday morning from Johannesburg via Sao Paulo to Rosario in Argentina.
The SA U20 squad to tour Argentina from 8-18 May are:
Forwards: Hyron Andrews (Sharks) Rikus Bothma (Western Province) Dan du Preez (Sharks) Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks) Thomas du Toit (Sharks) Joseph Dwebe (Free State Cheetahs) Njabulo Gumede (Blue Bulls) Jason Jenkins (Blue Bulls) Ruan Kramer (Sharks) Hanro Liebenberg (Blue Bulls – captain) Mzamo Majola (Sharks) Ox Nche (Free State Cheetahs) Abongile Nonkontwana (Blue Bulls) Jan van der Merwe (Blue Bulls) Frans van Wyk (Western Province) CJ Velleman (EP Kings) Jacques Vermeulen (Western Province)
Backs: Daniel du Plessis (Western Province) Warrick Gelant (Blue Bulls) Grant Hermanus (Western Province) JT Jackson (Blue Bulls) Malcolm Jaer (EP Kings) Marco Janse van Vuuren (Golden Lions) Khanyo Ngcukana (Western Province) Ernst Stapelberg (Western Province) Brandon Thomson (Western Province) Ivan van Zyl (Blue Bulls) Leolin Zas (Western Province)