Although sending in a strong squad to take on New Zealand’s All Blacks in the Welwitschia’s Rugby World Cup-opener, Namibian backline coach Pieter Rossouw said it is important that the team does not wear out.
Although they lost the game, Namibia fought valiantly against New Zealand, losing 58-14. With three games still to play in the group stages after this, the next of which is against Tonga, there was a concern that Namibia would throw in everything against the All Blacks, a team which was not only favourites to win the match, but tipped to win the World Cup.
“We obviously wanted to create a positive attitude, mind-set or momentum, which we can take into the Tonga game. However, as I said before, the negative side is that the Tonga game is only five days away after the New Zealand game. It’s possible to put everything into the New Zealand game, and then it can come back to bite you five days later. So, it was a bit of a catch-22 scenario,” said the former Springbok wing.
“The aim was that with the things we worked on, such as the kicking game, the defence game, the attack, if we can manage to create a sense of positivity around that and perhaps score a try or two against New Zealand, I think that could be very positive for the guys”, he added.
A strong and experienced side was named to face New Zealand, including captain Jacques Burger (32), Tinus du Plessis (31), Pieter-Jan van Lill (31) and Anthony Jantjies (28), who along with Du Plessis has the most caps for the senior team. New Zealand opened their campaign with the game against Argentina by winning 26-16 before they took on the Welwitschias.
They fielded what was considered a weakened side against Namibia. Speaking ahead of the game against New Zealand, Rossouw was aware of the challenge of having a squad which is not as experienced as some of the others.
“Probably half of our squad are professional rugby players. For some of them, this will be the biggest moments of their lives. It will be a big capacity stadium, so not many of them will have played against so many people before. But we want them to embrace the moment and enjoy it. We’ve worked hard, and we’ll try to get the things which we worked on to come out in the game,” Rossouw beamed.
He further explained that areas such as their scrum set-up, depth and rotation and tactical awareness are stronger than previous Namibian teams at the World Cup. There are 10 players in the Namibian squad with previous World Cup history.