The Junior Tuskers set up has always been the breeding ground for the schoolboy talent. Over the years, the boys who don the junior national jersey progress in the game, some of them eventually making the step up to the Senior team.
The Sri Lanka Under 19s from the year 2013 were a special lot, with many of them now some Sri Lanka’s best players. The 2013 team managed to get Sri Lanka promoted to the top division of the Asian Rugby circuit, a fantastic achievement at the time.
Here’s a look at some of the players who featured in that team and how they are currently faring.
01. Richard Dharmapala (C)
The wonder kid from Science College, who took the heavyweights in Schools’ Rugby by surprise, was the skipper of the 2013 U19 side. After his Junior Tuskers stint, he made his way to Kandy Sports Club where he continues to play his rugby. With Kandy, he has had the privilege of winning three league titles and is currently looking at their fourth successive one. Since 2014, Dharmapala has been a regular in the national sevens side as well and this year he made his debut in the XVs format.
From the humble beginnings in 2013, the young lad from Mount Lavinia has gone from strength to strength and is one of the most feared wing three quarters in the country.
02. Rahul De Silva
The vice-captain from the 2013 side was a phenomenal player in his school jersey, guiding Wesley to their first Milo President’s Trophy title that year. Marking his entry into the club arena, De SIlva wore the CR & FC jersey in his debut season before making it to the Park Club. Since then he has been the regular scrum-half option at Havelock Sports Club.
In 2016, De Silva made it to the national XVs squad and he continues to play despite his educational commitments.
03. Jason Melder
Jason Melder has come a long way since his schoolboy days. The former Josephian captain, who anchored the team almost single-handedly during his days, was an easy pick for the Junior Tuskers.
Playing for Havelock Sports Club for the past four seasons, Melder has played at both second row and prop and is now the captain of the men in pink. In 2015, he was picked for the national side who won the Asia Rugby Division I Championship in the Philippines.
04. Hirantha Perera
The center from the 2013 Isipathana College side made the Junior Tuskers side with his agility and speed. Headhunted by the management at Havelock Sports Club that year, Hirantha Perera has become a permanent member of the starting XV since 2015.
Having put on weight over the years, the young Perera was shortlisted for the national sevens side in 2016 and 2017. Playing as a forward in the sevens format, he made a considerable impact on the team in the two years. He continues to be a part of the national sevens squad.
05. Tarinda Ratwatte
The young Ratwatte made strides in his third season in the college colours and got his call-up for the Junior Tuskers in 2013. Ratwatte later went on to captain the 2014 side. A smart and useful fly-half, he shone in his college jersey at Trinity College. Currently playing at CR & FC, Ratwatte has made a considerable impact in the red jersey in his stint of three years.
The former Trinitian got his sevens call-up last year and played as a forward in the national side. Changing strides this year, he graduated to being the team’s kicking option playing in the backs.
06. Tharindu Chathuranga
One of the most underrated players in the club rugby circuit, the flanker from Kandy was also a part of the Under 19 squad in 2013. Starting at flanker this season, he has surely impressed coach Sean Wijesinghe as he has remained the team’s first choice.
Famously known as ‘Haali’ around Kandy he is another Kingswoodian in the top Club in the country.
07. Yakoob Ali
Yakoob Ali, the man who can either play as a prop or a hooker, is an impact player at the champion club, Kandy. Having played under the shadows of the veterans for a couple of seasons, Ali’s emergence was seen in the year of 2015/16 where he put up a fight for the Hooker position.
He is a product of St. Anthony’s College where played all his rugby and his performance lifted him up to the Junior national team in 2013. This year, Ali has shifted gears to play as a prop forward.
08. Anurada Herath
A destructive #8 during his time, Anuradha Herath was a renowned force in that school’s rugby arena. During his playing days St. Peter’s College were crowned Sevens Champions and he was adjudged the best player of the tournament. Moving to CR & FC soon after finishing his school career, he was seen playing in the red colours in the wings.
An injury kept him away for a season and soon after making a comeback, he was picked for the national sevens side that toured to Hong Kong for the World Series Qualifier. Switching from Longdon Place, Anurada now plays his rugby at CH & FC.