PLAYING against a lowly-ranked team like Namibia should be no problem for giants like South Africa, but they learned the hard way four years ago to never take any team lightly when Japan beat the Springboks in England.
In the build-up to the match between the Welwitschias and the Springboks at the Toyota Stadium in the Japanese city of Toyota, commentators around the world remarked on the recent good form of the Namibians and the trend at 2019 Rugby World Cup where second tier nations are not doing as badly as in previous tournaments.
Given the landslide results such as the 105 – 13 thrashing in 2007 and the 87 – 0 loss in 2011 when the two sides tackled each other at the Rugby World Cup, a better prepared Welwitschia side might not be the walk over every Springbok supporter makes them out to be.
The 47 – 22 result of the Namibians’ opening match against Italy is testimony to the team’s enhanced performance that has been diligently built up over the past five years.
The Welwitschias’ 30 – 28 victory against Uruguay during the Nations Cup in Montevideo about two months ago is another indicator of the team’s determination to improve on their previous World Cup performances.
Uruguay won their opening match in the 2019 Current World Cup against Fiji with 30 – 28 with a goal kick though the uprights in the dying seconds of the game.
Namibian rugby legend Jacques Burger believes Namibia can take pride from standing toe-to-toe with South Africa and then the All Blacks and use that emotion to bolster their chances of victory over Canada.
“Two decent performances against many people’s favourites for this year’s World Cup will take the Namibian guys a long way, and you can then use it to win games. It will make a world of difference for that final game with Canada,” Burger said during an interview with ESPN.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said World Rugby is doing a lot to get the second tier nations up to scratch and competitive.
“The gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations has definitely shrunk. You don’t get 100 points, 80 points and 70 points victories anymore – it’s been shown in the first week of the tournament,” Erasmus said
He said the Welwitschias has done a lot of work to be well prepared.
“It won’t be the Namibia of previous tournaments, which was just a walk over. Namibia held Italy to a 25-point margin (47-22) in their opening match and scored three tries in making Italy scrap all the way. There’s no denying, we’ll start as favourites, but we’ll get a huge shock if we think that’s enough to win the game. We have to treat all opponents in this tournament with equal seriousness, stick to our planning, bring intensity and then hopefully we’ll get our rewards.”
Namibia’s head coach Phil Davies said in his latest interview that World Rugby and SA Rugby have been fantastic in supporting the Namibians in building a team that can compete at the tournament.
“It’s a great challenge and opportunity to play our neighbours. We have huge respect for them,” Davies said.
After being named captain for South Africa’s game against Namibia, Schalk Brits said he is keeping his team’s 2015 World Cup defeat to Japan at the forefront of his mind.