WHAT A NIGHT: Johan Deysel is swamped by his teammates after scoring Namibia's most famous try
LONDON, 25 Sept - Up in the Olympic Stadium gods, an old Namibian centre Johan Deysel Snr looked down on the extraordinary moment unfolding down below and may have been tempted to smile that, actually, this rather topped the days 25 years ago when he once scored tries against Ireland, Portugal and Zimbabwe.
For there was another centre, his big boy Johan Jnr, with three black-shirted defenders hanging on and then falling off him, ploughing towards the line for the most historic score in Namibian rugby annals. Forget Portugal; this was the mighty All Blacks. What a moment! Unbelievable.
“Dad’s here and he’ll be very proud. He might have scored some tries but he never played against the All Blacks,” smiled Johan as he modestly reflected on the moment that none of his lion-hearted team, a bunch of journeymen pros and committed amateurs, will forget as he breached the world champions’ line just after half-time during the 58-14 defeat.
Just two days before his 24th birthday, the lad who plays for South African club Leopards could hardly credit it. “It was a bit soon but a good present!” he smiled, rather underplaying the moment.
A GREAT GIFT
Of course, the New Zealanders were always too strong, too powerful and professional in their nine-try triumph but the magnificent score from Deysel said everything about the new ambition, heart and quality of the tier two sides who were once easy prey for the big beasts. In its own way, for them, it felt just as big a breakthrough as Japan downing South Africa.
Steve Hansen, the All Blacks coach, admitted as much even if he was frustrated that, as the Namibians obviously tired in the last quarter and the action became very messy and stop-start, his team could not make their obvious superiority tell even more.
Yet he understood that this night was not about his team but about the tremendous breakthrough of team that a dozen years ago once conceded 142 points against Australia.
“The scoreboard would suggest that’s the case,” Hansen reflected, when asked if Namibia’s commendable efforts were a reflection of the more unfancied sides’ considerable improvement at this World Cup. “World Rugby has spent quite a bit of money to try to improve sides and I think the so-called minnows, for want of a better word, have played well so far.
“When Namibia got tired, the game got messy but that’s what you would expect when you’ve just got eight players who are amateurs in their 23 and they’re up against one of the most professional teams in rugby.
“But early in the game, they committed themselves totally to the breakdown, the tackle and the lineout, and they should be really proud of themselves. Just to make it to the World Cup from where they’ve come from - and I don’t mean this disrespectfully but as praise - to get to a game like this is something special in itself.
“I’m happy to acknowledge they were worthy opponents. At the end of the day, they gave everything they could give and that’s all you can ask of a man. You want them to be able to look in the mirror and say ‘I gave everything I had’ and to a man they did that.”
BURGER THE BRUTE
Jacques Burger always can say that. As usual, he was unbelievably committed, except even he might concede that his fellow flanker Tinus du Plessis was even more extraordinary on the night.
Burger came off with 15 minutes left but that was mainly to save him for the battle that lie ahead, with the Saracens’ force of nature believing that his men can beat either Tonga or Georgia, or both.
This match, he reckoned, had made his men believe. “It’s like the fear of a deep ocean. You don’t know what’s under there until you go in. Our guys now know you don’t need a miracle to perform against these guys.”
The All Blacks were good, reckoned the delighted Deysel. Yet the night had made him realise something else. "They're not super beings."