Namibia secure place at RWC 2011
By Helge Schutz
Namibia beat Tunisia 22-10 in a tense and physical match in Windhoek on Saturday to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand and join world champions South Africa, Wales, Fiji and Samoa in Pool D.
The victory gives Namibia a 40-23 aggregate victory after they won the first leg in Tunis 18-13 a fortnight ago, the first time the away side had won an encounter between the two African rivals.
The battle for the Africa 1 qualifying spot was still wide open at half time with Tunisia holding a narrow 10-9 lead.
However, the visitors' discipline let them down as they were continuously penalised for offside and ruck infringements with Namibian fly half Emile Wessels taking full advantage with his accurate boot.
In the final minutes the visitors' frustrations boiled over as players from both sides were involved in a melee, which resulted in a red card and three yellow cards being issued by referee Marius Jonker.
Kicking the points
Tunisia suffered an early setback when their captain and prop Souid Hedi was sin binned for foul play after only three minutes, Wessels kicking the resulting penalty to give Namibia a 3-0 lead.
Four minutes later Namibian scrum half Eugene Jantjies nearly increased the lead when he broke away from a scrum and sent wing Bradley Langenhoven away on the left wing. When the cover defence caught up, Jantjies gathered from a maul but dotted down just short of the try-line.
Tunisian wing Abbes Kherfani missed with a penalty in the 14th minute, but shortly afterwards fly half Lotfi Ben Msallem kicked a drop goal from just outside the 22m line. This score lifted Tunisia, who started attacking more and prop Aouemri Akrem was bundled into touch a metre from the line after a forward drive.
Wessels restored Namibia's lead with a penalty in the 28th minute, but Tunisia then took the lead for the first time with a great try six minutes later. Namibian flanker PJ van Lill went on a fine run, but when he was brought down centre Sabeur Ben Charrada launched an incisive counterattack to pass to left wing Kherfani, who dived over next to the posts.
With Ben Msallem adding the conversion, Tunisia went 10-6 ahead. Wessels, though, slotted another penalty between the posts from the 10 metre line to cut the deficit to one point and then narrowly missed another kick that would have given the home side the lead at half time.
Second chance for Tunisia
Namibia immediately went on the attack in the second half as loose forwards Van Lill and Jacques Nieuwenhuis came close to scoring, only for Tunisia's defence to hold out.
The home side's incessant pressure resulted in a five-metre penalty, but scrum half Jantjies missed another great chance when he knocked on going over the line. Tunisia were, however, penalised for offside and Wessels put Namibia 12-10 ahead with a penalty.
Namibia went further ahead through a great try by number eight Tinus du Plessis just past the hour mark. Full back Chrysander Botha launched a counterattack and the ball spun across the backline to Langenhoven and Piet van Zyl before Du Plessis was on hand to crash over for the try. Wessels added the conversion to put Namibia 19-10 ahead.
Tunisia were once again reduced to 14 men when prop Mohamed Ali Kochlaf was sin binned, but despite being a man down, they camped on Namibia's try-line. Tunisia had about six attempts at scoring from a maul repelled before fly half Ben Msallem tried a drop goal which went wide of the mark.
Namibia finished strongly, with loose forwards Van Lill and Jacques Burger putting in strong runs, and when Tunisia were penalised for offside, Wessels slotted over the penalty from in front of the posts.
The victory at the Hage Geingob Stadium ensured Namibia's qualification for Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand - the fourth successive time that they have qualified for the showpiece tournament. Tunisia have another chance to qualify for their first ever World Cup, via the cross-continental play-off next year.