Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
It is safe to say that Namibia are the second best test rugby nation in Africa, behind the Springboks, but that’s where any comparisons end. This is their fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup, where they qualified for the pool stages by beating Tunisia 22-10 at the end of 2009. Having won the IRB Nations Cup in 2010 they will be on a high coming into the tournament, as well as beating Currie Cup Division One side Griffons 52-36 in their final warm-up match.
It’s not a good one. Since they made their World Cup debut in 1999, Namibia have played 11 games and lost all of them. This includes a record defeat in the competition of 142-0 by Australia in 2003. They concede on average 53 points per Rugby World Cup match and will be hoping to improve on this in New Zealand. However due to them being in the “Pool of Death” along with reigning champions South Africa, Wales, Samoa and Fiji, they’re going to find it difficult.
Best Rugby World Cup moment:
Despite their run of losses, they have had a few close matches over the past 16 years, the most notable one being their 32-17 loss to Ireland in their opening match of the 2007 tournament. It’s the closest they have ever got to a win, as they fought back from being 27-3 down. It was a rare positive in an event that has not brought many highs to Namibia and their supporters.
Biggest Rugby World Cup win: None
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: 142-0 v Australia (October 24, 2003)
Key player: Jacques Burger
Probably the best known Namibian player around, Jacques Burger is also its captain and their best player. The Saracens flanker knows what it is like to win trophies, having been a pivotal part of the Watford side’s Aviva Premiership winning side this year, and he will want to take that experience to his home nation. Having previously admitted that he likes “getting in people’s faces” during a match, the physical presence of Burger in both rucks and the loose will definitely have an impact on the side.
One to watch: Rohan Kitshoff
Joining Burger in the back row for Namibia is the Stormers and Western Province’s Rohan Kitshoff. The 25-year-old, who turns 26 the day before their match against Samoa, has been singled out by head coach, Johan Diergaardt, to steal the show from his captain, after impressive shows in South African domestic rugby. Yet another physical presence, this time on the blindside, Kitshoff was a fellow member of the 2010 IRB Nations Cup winning side and will use his pace and strength to help bolster Namibia’s defence.
Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
v Fiji (September 10, 04:30)
v Samoa (September 14, 03:30)
v South Africa (September 22, 09:00)
v Wales (September 26, 07:30)
The battle of Africa takes place on 22nd September, one that Namibia will want to do well from against their neighbours South Africa. Realistically though, it will be the matches against the Pacific Islands sides: Fiji and Samoa that will be Namibia’s best chance of breaking their duck.
Odds: A very outside bet at 2000-1
Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt says:
“The only team we are confident of beating is Fiji. Namibia against Fiji will be a balanced affair and it will depend on how we walk on to the field that day. I am confident we will get our first World Cup victory against Fiji,”
I have a feeling that Pool D will just be too strong for them. I think they will improve on the cricket-like scores but the first victory for them may have to wait until 2015 in England.
Position: Out in the pool stages.