TOKYO, 3 Oct – Former Namibia captain Jacques Burger has challenged his former team-mates to make the most of their Pool B clash against New Zealand at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday.
At Rugby World Cup 2015, the talisman flanker led his side at London’s Olympic Stadium in a 58-14 defeat by New Zealand.
Unlike Canada's chastening 63-0 reverse against the world champions on Wednesday night, the Welwitschias did score a try that will inspire the current crop of players to attempt a repeat.
This week revived memories of where they were when Johan Deysel – nicknamed 'Buffy' because he slays people on the pitch, according to teammate Darryl De La Harpe – crashed over in the second half of that game.
Now Burger, who lives on a 14,000-acre farm in southern Nambia with his wife and two children, wants Namibia's World Cup newcomers, such as Helarius Kisting and Janry Du Toit, not to be overawed by the occasion.
“These are 15 of the greatest players in the world, but they are just human beings like we are – they bleed like we bleed,” he said.
“From the first kick-off, the first tackle, the first ruck, go out and do everything 100 per cent. You do have the ability. They’re not super-human. You can learn off them and maybe you can teach them a couple of things as well.”
The 36-year-old retired at the end of the group stage at RWC 2015 after 36 caps and three Rugby World Cups. But while he won two Premierships with English club side Saracens, the moment against the All Blacks is his career standout.
“When Buffy scored the crowd erupted,” he recalled. “It was unbelievable. It felt like we had just won the World Cup. It’s something I smile about. Now all I have left are memories of what I’ve achieved and where I’ve been and who I’ve played. Particularly for the amateurs, I think they appreciate it even more.”
With possibly one shot at the All Blacks in their careers, Burger says they must seize the opportunity.
“The squad includes a lot of amateurs,” he said. “Most have eight-to-five jobs and just to be at the World Cup and represent their country against the All Blacks is an honour. But you shouldn’t let that numb you - you’ll be a better rugby player after matches like these.
“The Italy game showed us if we do have good ball we have the ability to break the line and score good tries. We’ve got quality all around. They just have to believe in themselves, put a plan in place and, when they go out on the pitch, have a full smash at it.”
Burger's big hope, as he pointed out on Twitter, is that Namibia should leave Japan with their first World Cup victory - and he believes their big chance is against Canada next week. As for who he thought would win the tournament, he stayed close to home by opting for neighbours South Africa.
“If I had to bet my farm on a team to win the World Cup – that would be a horrible thing to do by the way – it would be the Springboks,” he said. “England have a good chance and Wales are looking good, but South Africa are our neighbours, so I’ve got to back them.”