Continuing the tier two Rugby World Cup series, Mcee Azutopshutter, looks at Namibia. The African side; nicknamed Welwitschias, qualified for the Rugby World Cup after winning the Africa gold cup final against Kenya. Representing their nation, the Namibia Rugby World Cup squad looks forward to the challenge ahead.
Placed in Pool B, alongside the defending World Champions New Zealand. Namibia will be challenged by their fellow African nation, South Africa, Canada, and Italy. That will be a challenge the small nation are in fact, well used to. Five appearances at the pinnacle RWC tournament, and a familiarity with the RWC pressure-filled atmosphere gives them the confidence to meet other teams on a level playing field.
That tournament knowledge will do the Namibia Rugby World Cup team well, as they again take on the best in the world.
Namibia Rugby World Cup history
Having made five world cup appearances since 1999 this will be Namibia’s sixth Rugby World Cup appearance. In their first match on the 22nd of September, they face off against Italy. The two have faced off before twice before Namibia made their debut on the world cup scene with Namibia winning both matches held in June of 1991.
Italy and Namibia have met 3 times in rugby tests. I was surprised to find out that Italy have won 1 and Namibia have won 2!
Could Namibia beat a Tier 1 nation at the #RWC2019???
— Paul from New Zealand Sport Radio (@DrivingMaul) August 27, 2019
Namibia is still searching for their first Rugby World Cup win. However, over their five appearances, their games have gradually become more competitive. In 2015 they fell agonizingly close against Georgia, losing by just one point.
When considering international rugby history, Namibia holds a strong record. One that surprises some, with their list of victories over Tier One nations. Italy being one, who must feel this will a game that each side may target.
Pool B – what are Namibia’s chances?
Namibia is in the same pool as Italy, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. This will make for a huge challenge against some big names in the rugby world.
Nambia has played Italy on three occasions, most recently in November 2018 where Namibia won 66 -3. Italy finished 3rd in their pool during the last World Cup held in England in 2015. However, this match could be a chance for Namibia to compete with an out of form tier-one nation.
Canada offers Namibia’s best chance of a victory but even here they are slight underdogs. Namibia has lost both the previous meetings between the two sides. However, Canada has been on a slide down the World rankings. Perhaps this offers an opportunity for Namibia to score a famous win.
Namibia’s match with South Africa will be hotly contested given they are the only two African nations competing at the World Cup. The most notable matches between the two must be in 2007 when they faced off and South Africa came out triumphant after a 105-13 win.
They then have to take on arguably the best side in the world in the shape of New Zealand. The two were pooled together during the 2015 Rugby World Cup where New Zealand won 58-14 on their way to winning the entire competition.
Namibia has never won against South Africa or New Zealand and the goal for these matches will be to maintain respectability in all honesty.
Three key Namibia Rugby World Cup players to watch –
Bothma is one of the few Namibian players on a full-time contract. Bothma is a loose forward who currently plays for Harlequins. His experience of professional environments will be of great use to the rest of his team.
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Uanivi will bring a lot of experience to this Namibian side. Standing at over two meters tall he is a real handful in the line out and across the park. If he can provide good quality ball for his side then Namibia can have some success in Japan.
Jantjies is the most capped current player for Namibia with 61 appearances. He is in line for his fourth World Cup appearance and will hope that he can finally get his country’s first victory on the board.
Going forward – ‘beyond the World Cup’
Namibian rugby has a relatively decent pathway system considering the amount of funding available. In 2016 the Welwitshias; the Namibian representative side, were admitted into the Currie Cup. However, funding issues have seen this side cut back significantly.
The next step is to maximize the number of Namibian players on full-time contracts around the World. Currently, that number is minimal but if this grows so can the quality of the national team. However, it is important to note that the level of funding in Namibia is always going to be low and as a result that will always limit the development of the national side.
Namibia should look to the work that Uruguay has done in the last four years. If Namibia can reinvest the money generated from the Rugby World Cup as the South American side has done then they can begin to build a viable player pathway. However, it all starts in September.
A strong showing in Japan could pave the way to a brighter rugby future in Africa.
“Main photo credit”
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