RWC 2023 Qualifier Spotlight: Namibia
Victory 36-0 over Kenya in the final of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 ensured Namibia will be competing in a seventh consecutive Rugby World Cup tournament.
The Welwitschias made their debut in the game’s marquee event in 1999 and have appeared ever since but are yet to win a game – something they will be looking to put right in France next year.
Here, we take a brief look back at their Rugby World Cup history …
RWC debut: 1 October, 1999, v Fiji at Stade de la Mediterranee, Béziers
RWC appearances: Played 22, Won 0, Drawn 0, Lost 22, Points for 248, Points against 1,323, Win percentage 0 per cent
Most RWC appearances: Eugene Jantjies, 14
Most RWC tries: Johan Tromp, Heinz Koll, Jacques Burger, JC Greyling, Theuns Kotze, 2
Best finish: Pool stages
Qualification for RWC 2023: Africa 1
Most memorable match: Namibia 16-17 Georgia, at Sandy Park, Exeter, RWC 2015
The Welwitschias brushed off the disappointment of losing their captain and talisman, Jacques Burger to an early injury to hold the lead at half-time – the first time they had achieved this in 18 tournament appearances.
Theuns Kotze’s two penalties separated the sides at the break with Georgia failing to register a single point.
Merab Kvirikashvili converted tries from Mamuka Gorgodze and Lasha Malaguradze and added a penalty as Georgia found a response in the second half
But Kotze set up a grandstand finish when he kicked a third penalty and converted his own 74th-minute try from the touchline.
Despite losing three men to the sin-bin as well as Burger, Namibia were just one point behind and on the verge of a famous victory,
However, Georgia held on for a triumph built on forward supremacy and Namibian indiscipline.
Iconic moment: Johan Deysel’s try against the All Blacks, at the Olympic Stadium, RWC 2015
Scoring against the eventual winners in front of over 50,000 fans made for a special early 24th birthday present for Deysel, who crashed over in the 51st-minute of the 54-14 defeat.
“I can remember every second like it was yesterday. I don’t think I will ever forget it,” the centre recalled in a recent interview with World Rugby.
“Because we were the underdog, the crowd were behind us when we did something good or special, and when I scored, they went mental.
“It is my best rugby memory.”
Low point: Suffering the largest defeat in Rugby World Cup history
Japan conceded more points in losing 145-17 to the All Black at RWC 1995, but the 142 unanswered points hosts Australia scored against Namibia at the Adelaide Oval at RWC 2003 is the biggest defeat.
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.
Iconic player: Jacques Burger
Without a doubt Namibia’s most famous player of all time. Started all 36 of his tests for Namibia and appeared at three Rugby World Cups (2007, 2011 and 2015), captaining the team in the latter two tournaments.
Record-breaker: Eugene Jantjies
The versatile half-back is the only player to represent Namibia at four Rugby World Cups (2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019), making a total of 14 appearances.
Did you know?
In losing 58-14 to New Zealand in their opening game at RWC 2015, Namibia brought up the unwanted record of conceding 1,000 points at Rugby World Cups. Only four other teams have done so: USA, Canada, Romania and Japan.
‘I’ve coached a lot of people, I’m passionate about rugby. But good grief, when I turned up here, these guys train in the early hours in the morning, then they go to work, they come home at night to do more training and then do their pool recovery in between, yet I haven’t heard one moan. If I’d done this in Wales, well, they’d just not turn up.’ – Namibia assistant coach Dale McIntosh on the Welwitschias players’ commitment at RWC 2019.
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