Namibia can make big statement in Japan, say pundits… as Welwitschias hunt first ever Rugby World Cup win
WINDHOEK - Various local rugby coaches and pundits are all in agreement that this year’s Rugby World Cup could be the one where Namibia will surprise the world and hopefully leave a lasting impression.
The 2019 World Cup will be the ninth edition of the global rugby showpiece and will be held in Japan from September 20 to November 2. It will be the first time that the tournament is held in Asia and outside the traditional heartland of the rugby union.
Namibia’s rugby fifteen, the Welwitschias, are in Pool B alongside world champions New Zealand, two-time World Cup winners South Africa, Italy and Canada. They will kick off their World Cup campaign with a clash against Italy on September 22, before moving on to face African neighbours South Africa on September 28.
Their third match will be against reigning champions New Zealand on October 6, to be followed by their fourth and final pool clash against Canada on October 13.
Judging from the country’s recent performance in the South African Supersport Rugby Challenge and at the World Rugby Nations Cup in Uruguay, where Namibia recorded a mixture of results in both competitions, local coaches and experts have since zoomed in to weigh up the team’s chances at the upcoming World Cup.
New Era Sport spoke to various pundits on the Welwitschias’ chances in Japan and one such expert was former national rugby team coach Johan Diergaardt, who said that with the current crop of players in the squad, Namibia stands a decent chance of pulling a surprise or two at the World Cup.
He however said a lot of hard work and commitment to the cause will be needed from the players if the team is to achieve its desired objectives in the Asian country.
“With the current crop of players that are in the team right now, I can safely say that we are heading in the right direction and our chances of winning our first ever match at the World Cup could be this year. Looking at our opponents, a lot of hard work will be indeed needed and the players must stand together as a unit. A positive attitude from the boys will also take us far,” said Diergaardt.
Coastal rugby club Kudus great Graham “Franco” Swartz was in agreement with Diergaardt on the quality of the players in the current squad, but cautioned that they should work on their fitness levels and match fitness as well, as those are key areas in getting the desired results from the team.
“The players are good, they just need to get a bit more physically and mentally fit if they are to compete at their best at the tournament,” briefly said Swartz.
Rehoboth Rugby Club coach David Philander said the competitions [Supersport Rugby Challenge and World Rugby Nations Cup] provided the coaching staff with a perfect opportunity to gauge the various players and see how and where the team needed to be strengthened before heading to Japan. He too is optimistic about Namibia’s chances at the World Cup and believes the team can surprise their more fancied opponents.
2019-06-20 10:01:38 2 months ago