RWC 2015 Spotlight - Namibia
NAMIBIA ON THE RWC STAGE
Since they made their Rugby World Cup debut in 1999, Namibia have played 15 matches and lost all of them – a record they will be looking to put right in England next year after securing their place in Pool C alongside reigning champions New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia.
For the past decade and a half, Namibia have been Africa’s ‘other’ team on the Rugby World Cup stage, operating firmly in the shadow of the two-time world champion Springboks. The status quo is unlikely to change any time soon, if at all, but getting that elusive first win would serve as a serious shot in the arm to a country that features in the RWC record books for all the wrong reasons.
Namibia have suffered some frightful hammerings in the four tournaments they have appeared in to date, most notably the cricket score (142-0) that Australia ran up at their expense in 2003. While the heaviest defeat by far – and a record losing margin in RWC history, this is one of nine matches (60 per cent) where the opposition have scored a half-century of points or more against the Welwitschias.
In 1999, Fiji were the first to expose Namibia to the brutal realities of the standard required to compete at a Rugby World Cup. Six tries and 43 points were conceded before the break as Fiji threatened to run riot in Beziers. However second-half tries from Heino Senekal, Namibia’s first in a Rugby World Cup match, and Mario Jacobs restored a semblance of pride. Three Ugo Mola tries in 13 minutes did for Namibia in a spirited second outing against France before a veil was drawn on their debut World Cup with a 72-11 defeat at the hands of Canada.
Even though Namibia emerged from their maiden Rugby World Cup campaign with three defeats from three and a points difference of -184, captain Quin Hough ensured they bowed out by scoring at least one try in every match – something eight of the other nations had failed to do - when he crossed the Canadian line early in the second half.
Led by Sean Furter, Namibia began RWC 2003 with a 67-14 defeat to Argentina. Five days later, Namibia lost 64-7 to Ireland in rain-soaked Sydney, which at that stage was Ireland’s biggest ever Rugby World Cup win. Next up, Australia more than doubled the margin of victory in crushing Namibia 142-0 at the Adelaide Oval. The Wallabies raced past the century mark inside 53 minutes - far quicker than the likes of Don Bradman had managed at the famous cricketing venue in the past – and went on to score 22 unanswered tries as Namibia fell off tackle after tackle. A 37-7 defeat to Romania completed another RWC whitewash.
Perhaps Namibia’s most memorable Rugby World Cup performance came against Ireland at the Chaban Delmas Stadium in Bordeaux at RWC 2007. Trailing 27-3 with 59 minutes on the clock, Namibia, inspired by quick-witted right winger Ryan Witbooi, rallied for the final quarter of the match and launched a series of devastating assaults on the Irish line to put the Welwitschias within 10 points of the Irish. However Jerry Flannery’s late try put paid to any hopes that Namibia had of pulling off the greatest of all RWC shocks.
The rest of RWC 2007 was however a bit of an anti-climax for Namibia as they were thrashed 87-10 by France – the largest win in Les Bleus’ history, with Jacques Nieuwenhuis being red-carded in the 19th minute for a high tackle on Sebastien Chabal, and 63-3 by Argentina. Namibia signed off in disappointing fashion with a 30-0 defeat against Georgia.
Wins over Senegal, Zimbabwe and Tunisia in qualifying ensured Namibia, captained by star flanker Jacques Burger and coached by Johan Diergaardt, made it through to their fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup in 2011. Drawn in another ‘Pool of Death’, Namibia were no match for South Africa, Wales, Samoa or even a Fiji side in decline and ended the tournament without managing to break their duck.
After scoring two tries against both Fiji and Samoa Namibia were nilled for the third time at a Rugby World Cup when South Africa put 87 points on them without reply. Namibia bade a weary farewell to RWC 2011 after a 81-7 hammering at the hands of Wales, although, as parting shots go, lock Heinz Koll’s run in from halfway was not a bad way to sign off.
Namibian fly-half Rudi van Vuuren became the first player to represent his country in both a Cricket and Rugby World Cup when he appeared in the 70th minute of the RWC 2003 tie against Romania – the first Rugby Test match to be played in Tasmania.
The RWC 2007 performance against Ireland. Namibia may have narrowly failed to upset the applecart, but they won the respect of their opponents, the crowd, and the millions of rugby fans around the world watching on television.
It doesn’t get any worse than a 142-0 hiding, in which nine team and individual records were broken by Australia.
“We have to hit around their legs – they’re big boys. I’d like to see what they ate growing up.”
- Namibia captain Jacques Burger ponders the secret to the Samoans’ physical stature.
According to reports Namibia missed an incredible 81 tackles in their record 142-0 defeat at the hands of Australia at RWC 2003.