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Can Namibia get first World Cup win?

Mon, 21 September 2015 23:34
by Andreas Kathindi

Photo by Nicola Gallagher

The 2015 World Cup is in swing and fans have been buzzing and busy reading up on their teams to not make themselves look silly in front of others during live games.

While the general buzz among rugby fans is positive, with casual fans simply excited to see the Namibian run out on the international stage for another tournament, those who are a little au fait will the status of the Welwitschia senior team remain divided on expectations for the World Cup campaign.

Captain of the Unam rugby team, Muniovita Kasirimgua, who recently won the Namibian Rugby Premiership with his club remains a bit concerned about the national team’s preparations.

“Prior to the World Cup kicking off, we didn’t have enough games of the quality of the teams we will be facing in our group stage. We faced teams who are much lower than us and we gave them all thrashings but that is not an indication of our strength,” he said.

Namibia’s games before the World Cup where against Zimbabwe, Kenya and twice against Russia, which were all convincing victories for the team.

Namibia went into the two-match series against Russia two points behind them on the world rankings, but however currently sit two points ahead the European team as they go into their first match of the tournament.

Despite playing what he considers minnows in preparation for the World Cup, Kasirimgua was however encouraged by the fact that although the Welwitschia lost former coach Danie Vermeulen, the coaching staff that is in charge has been with the team for a significant amount, “Phil Davies, has been with the team since last year. Even though we lost Danie Vermeulen, I don’t think the addition of Davies has hampered the team. I would love the boys to be competitive and not be walk overs. Of course, everyone expects the world champions, New Zealand, in our first match to be favourites, but we should give them a fight,” said Kasirimgua.

Meanwhile, sport officer at Unam rugby club, Werner Jeffery, while agreeing that Phil Davies and new backline coach Pieter Rossouw have improved the team but maintained the team is much better prepared this time around than in previous World Cup campaigns.

As it was the desire of Namibian rugby union (NRU) to win a match at the World Cup, a milestone the team has not achieved as yet in all four previous campaigns.

Despite an abysmal record of 15 defeats in 15 games played, Jeffery insisted, “We can even get two wins. I believe Georgia are vulnerable. We’ve beaten them before in 2010 to win the IRB Nation’s Cup. I believe Tonga is the other nation we can beat as well.”

Before that 2010 meeting in the IRB Nation’s Cup, the sides last met in the 2007 World Cup in when Georgia recorded their first World Cup win with a 30-0 win over Namibia. These two fixtures come after Namibia’s opener, which is of course against the current world champions, New Zealand who are already favourites to win the tournament.

Whether a defeat there could impact the rest of the Welwitschia’s campaign was down to the mentality of the squad, Jeffery argued. “It all depends on how the coaching staff mentally prepare the team. New Zealand are in a class of their own. They are the world champions and we know what the outcome will be, it is hard to expect us to beat them. But if we give them a fight and lose by less than 60 points, it will be a huge boost for the team. But if we lose by a big margin, like over 60 points, then it might affect morale,” said Jeffery.

He further said winning a game at the World Cup will be a ‘major boost’. “Everyone will look at Namibia and notice us, but the hard work will only be from then on. The NRU should then pick up club rugby and have a structure ready when they come back. Local club rugby is doing poorly as we don’t even get prize money for winning the Premiership. We can’t just go on like this the whole time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Norwin Oosthuizen, administrator at NRU said as a fan, it is exciting times to witness the team take on the international stage again. “From a personal point of view, as someone who has been active behind the scenes and making contributions, it is very rewarding and everyone is very positive,” he said.

He also argued that although the teams in Pool C are all above Namibia in the world rankings, no one prepares to go to war expecting to lose. New Zealand is ranked first, Argentina eighth, Tonga eleventh and Georgia 16th respectively. Namibia is 20th.

All in all fans who cannot make the trip will be hoping to relax and watch the team put up a good performance. Kasirimgua said he is planning to watch the games live with fellow Unam club teammates at the campus and fellowship.

Henry Hendricks, organiser of the Rugby Event says fans are welcome to watch the opener against New Zealand at a live screening at the Hage Geingob stadium.

“Fans are excited, it’s a big match and we would like to create an atmosphere of a live match and get all local fans together in one place, at the Hage Geingob stadium which is the home of local rugby,” he said.