NAMIBIA scrum coach Jaco Engels is relishing the opportunity to reunite with his South African “brothers” this weekend, but knows everything changes at the first whistle.
Engels noted that fans should expect a full-blooded test with ‘sibling rivals’ South Africa when they meet in Toyota, Japan on Saturday.
The Southern African nations have met once before at the World Cup, with the Welwitschias losing 87-0 in 2011. Before that, South Africa beat their neighbor 105-13 in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) warm-up game in 2007.
The 38-year-old Engels will be uniquely placed to preview the next chapter in the two teams intertwined histories.
Despite playing almost all his club rugby in South Africa, Engels made his test debut for his birth country in 2013, at the age of 32, and went on to earn 15 caps, including three at the RWC 2015.
Now he is part of head coach Phil Davies’s backroom staff, armed with extensive insider knowledge on former teammates and coaches in the Springboks set-up.
“I know them quite well,” Engels said at the team’s hotel in Toyota on Tuesday.
“I played against Rassie (Erasmus). I played with their backline coach Mzwandile Stick at the Kings and with their forwards Coach Matt Proudfoot in my younger days at the Leopards. Matt is also from Potchefstroom. He actually helped me to play prop. He taught me a lot of stuff so we know each other very well,” he added.
Unlike the often-bitter rivalries between other neighboring countries, Engels described the dynamic between Namibia and South Africa as closer to that of siblings.
“They always look at us as a little brother. They look after us. They always try to help us by inviting us to participate in their competitions. Some of our people play in South Africa and a lot of us have studied there. There has always been a close relationship. The economies are linked. We speak the same language. Namibia is a lot more relaxed but it’s the same type of people, the same type of values,” He added.