Namibia ready for tough assignments
Namibia qualified for next year’s showcase tournament in England on July 6 to secure a fifth successive appearance on the Rugby World Cup stage. The resounding 89-10 win over Madagascar on the final day of the CAR Division 1A qualifiers means that the Welwitschias will join New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia in Pool C of Rugby World Cup 2015.
With the vast majority of the national squad based domestically, next year’s Rugby World Cup will give Namibia’s players an invaluable opportunity to take on some of the finest talent on the planet. But while Namibia’s RWC 2015 qualification campaign may have ended on a high, the Welwitschias will be conscious that some of their performances, in particular against Kenya and Zimbabwe, will need to be improved on if they are to make an impact at next year’s tournament in England.
Namibia can now look forward to a match schedule that will see them play at established football and rugby venues, as well as the world famous Olympic Stadium in London. We take a look at what lies ahead for the continent’s second highest ranked team and profile some of their players to watch out for.
All Blacks opener
Namibia will start their campaign with the awe-inspiring prospect of taking on New Zealand at the Olympic Stadium in London on September 24. The match will provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of Namibia’s players, almost all of whom will never have played against such high profile opposition or at such a high profile venue. This will be the nation’s first ever match against the All Blacks.
The prospect of seeing rugby played at such at the Olympic Stadium is something that clearly excites England 2015 Ambassador Maggie Alphonsi: “I think that being part of a Rugby World Cup match at the Olympic Stadium will be an indescribably brilliant experience and I’m really looking forward to seeing the sport I love being played on one of the most iconic stages in world sport.”
Home from home
Namibia will then head south west to Exeter for the first of two consecutive matches at Sandy Park. The Welwitschias’ first assignment in the West Country will be against Tonga on September 29. The two sides have only ever met once before; a 1997 test match in Windoek, Namibia, which the hosts narrowly lost 14-20.
Eight days after their clash against Tonga, Namibia will once again run out at Sandy Park, this time to take on Georgia. The Africans will want to capitalise on the familiar surroundings and will hope to have won over the locals on the back of the previous week’s performance against Tonga.
Georgia will have fond memories from their only previous meeting with Namibia on the Rugby World Cup stage. The Eastern European outfit recorded their first ever win at a Rugby World Cup with a 30-0 defeat of Namibia in their rain-affected RWC 2007 Pool D match in Lens.
Namibia’s last match of the pool phase will be against Argentina on October 11 at Leicester City Stadium. The two sides are no strangers having already met on two previous occasions at the tournament. At RWC 2003 in Australia, Namibia took on the Pumas in their opening match in Gosforth. Namibia put in a spirited performance and managed to cross the line twice, but eventually succumbed 67-14.
Four years later in Marseille, Namibia succeeded in keeping Argentina at bay for just under half an hour, before the powerful South Americans managed to assert their dominance and run in nine unanswered tries. Having shipped a total of 130 points against Argentina in their last two Rugby World Cup encounters, Namibia will be looking to learn from the experience of two heavy defeats and shore up their defence for what will undoubtedly be one of their toughest assignments at RWC 2015.
Players to watch out for
Jacques Burger (flanker) – without a doubt Namibia’s most well-known player on the world stage. The inspirational captain and flanker has won many plaudits for his fearless tackling and capacity to win turnover ball. Burger will be no stranger to RWC 2015 venues like Sandy Park, having played for English Premiership outfit Saracens since 2010.
Tinus Du Plessis (back row forward) – one of the veterans of the current Namibia squad, Du Plessis has already been involved in two Rugby World Cup campaigns and is one of his country’s most capped players. The versatile back row forward’s highest accolade came at a RWC 2011 match against Wales, deservedly picking up the Man of the Match award having amassed 20 tackles over 80 minutes.
Theuns Kotze (scrum half / fly half) – the versatile Kotze burst onto the scene at RWC 2011 having only made his international debut three months previously against Romania. Kotze, who plays his club rugby in France with Pays D’Aix, is fast becoming one of Namibia’s leading point scorers and looks likely to be given kicking responsibilities at RWC 2015.
340 – the number of points that former fullback Jaco Coetzee scored for Namibia in a 5 year international career
112 – Namibia’s record winning margin, against Madagascar in 2002
22 – Namibia’s current IRB World Ranking
5 – the number of times Namibia have qualified for a Rugby World Cup
0 – the number of victories Namibia have recorded at Rugby World Cup to date
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