• August 20th, 2019
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Wacca speaks his mind on rugby politics, tribalism and racism

Namibian rugby has been embroiled in a nasty off-the-field war of words between rugby’s heavyweights accusing each other of being power hungry

New Era Sport Editor Carlos Kambaekwa (CK) sought the views and input from an independent mind in the person of retired Welwitschias big-frame flank Wacca Kazombiaze.  The outspoken bulky athlete minced no words as he goes full-bodied into the scrimmage.

CK: Good day Wacca, hope you are well and thanks for your time. Namibian rugby has been embroiled in nasty off-the-field infighting and all sorts of accusations of preferential treatment towards certain players when it comes to team selection – what’s your take on this?

WK: From a technical point of view, it’s difficult as some players are utility backs and others are utility forwards – the coach needs a bit of everyone as per your game plan or your opponent’s playing style. But players should not be played out of positions just to suffocate upcoming talents. One finds a backline player who plays one position at his club but is made to play in two or three different positions in the national team set-up, which to me is unmerited to those that are performing in their particular positions. 

CK: It has now become a norm that whenever the team has qualified for the World Cup – those at the helm start jostling for seats on the plane with accusations and counter-accusations of hypocrisy. What do you think leads to those at the helm of rugby always engaged in office politics at the expense of the real custodians of the game – the players and their respective clubs?

WK: It is rather disappointing that those so-called ‘rugby gods in Namibia’ that bring the name of the game into disrepute, their highest level of playing rugby was ‘hostel teams’. Their administration from the clubs they hailed from is highly questionable, as they have done disastrous at club level. They have failed with highest degrees at their club levels, yet they want to correct matters at national level? Some clubs’ players have to contribute money to play league games? They contribute money to travel, they contribute money for meals, yet players carry their own cost whenever they get injured - what have the so-called rugby gods done at club level to turn this sport semi-professional? At prize-giving functions, players are rewarded with plastic trophies? Given alcohol? They need to analyze contextual issues in sport governance that include dual leadership [NRU] and [NRL] ethics, governance change and future governance challenges all for the benefit of the athletes and well-being of the code. 

CK: The latest twist has been triggered by the establishment of a commercial body, known as Namibian Rugby Limited – ostensibly called into life to act as a go-between for NRU and the world’s rugby presiding body IRB. NRU says it does not recognize the newly formed commercial arm because it was established under mysterious circumstances without the blessing of the clubs. What’s your opinion on this issue?

WK: The concept of NRL is what Namibian rugby needs. This to me is an advanced mechanism for rugby administration. It’s the principle for operating and promoting successful teams, from amateur to professional levels? Analyzing how economic, political and social factors impact the financial stability of rugby, thus NRU must marry the ideologies of NRL as management arm and mostly the financial management part, for transparency and accountability but mostly the commercialization of rugby in Namibia.
NRL and NRU need to discuss the effective implementation of laws to have the commercial and economic status of the rugby union stable. They need to discuss and draft MoUs on and players’ contracts promoting the level of professionalism. NRU and NRL need to discuss modern approaches of sponsorship and endorsement agreements to exploit the current commercial opportunities. 

CK: The burning issue of racism always crops up, rugby in particular and you have been there, seen over a significant number of years – have you ever experienced any form of racism or rather preferential treatment meted out towards certain squad members?

WK: I have integrity, thus I was not a quota player neither a representative of black Namibians in the national team, the team was always selected on merit, yet there were cases of racism but on technical grounds. Once you are committed and have vision all these will not succeed against a disciplined player. Preferential treatments were there but to me they were minor – they could not destruct my approach to any game as I had to represent the nation during that time. Your physio appointments were the last, your injuries were not seriously regarded, your kit at times the sizes were not correct, but still I was not destructed, I managed and give the nation my whole. 

CK: What’s your suggestion as to what should be done to safeguard the future of domestic rugby?

WK: The rugby administrators must respect the code, players. IRB must regard domestic coaches highly and keep the affairs ongoing for Namibia to be regarded as a rugby-playing nation. We need to amend our constitution to meet modern protocols and effectively seeking commercial sponsor auditing to secure ongoing relationships and support domestically.
The NRU must establish workable strategies with NRL implementing workable sponsorship and commercialization strategy. They must evaluate modern trends with regard to professionalization of the code so that there are jobs created and contracting of players. The identification and evaluation of domestic coaches through high performance must be the priority point of NRL and NRU.
NRU should stop going to the Namibian government for funds but yet denying the commercialization of the code. The NRU can never alone, given the global economic status, source funds for the elevation and upgrading of Namibian rugby without NRL or other commercial partners. What is the current way forward the NRU has for players and the code in general? NRU has no vision, the leadership is in office, it is business as usual, they are there without facilitation or provision of elevating the status of Namibian rugby? The Namibian nation needs rugby to be elevated and the status of female players’ participation needs to be a serious topic as well. 
Evaluating ways of securing female involvement in national, regional, local rugby development and also rugby administration and management.
Given the biomechanics of Namibian women we can top sevens rugby and fifteens also, but the union is not doing enough in terms of talent identification. Such is only done in coloureds and whites schools or with such history. Thus the rugby union is failing the government as the rugby administration has little understanding of the national development plans by the Namibian government.

CK: The game of rugby is still not where it should be in terms of development and visibility at school level as can be attested by the unequal demographic representation at international level. 
Where did we go wrong in this regard?
WK: Rugby is no more for specific ethnical groups, the sports directorate and sports commission are the ones creating this obstacle in development due to unjustified and unequal budget allocations. There are lots of sport facilities across Namibia; they must be converted to multi-purpose, as it’s the cheapest conversion. We preach rugby should be taken to the regions – to be played at which facilities? Not having proper facilities for rugby could shorten the playing careers of upcoming stars due to early injuries. The schools with proper facilities, the maintenance aspect is lacking due to lack of sufficient budgets from the ministries – these facilities’ lives are drastically shortened. The NRU and directorate of sports must facilitate promotion of rugby by re-introducing regional teams. The NSSU must receive a moratorium from the directorate of sports that in all their teams there must be seven to nine black players in their starting line-up. 

CK: Whilst Namibia must be applauded for having qualified for the World Cup over the last five editions, Namibian rugby remains amateur after so many years while other unions have moved up to professional level. What’s your overall assessment on the state of rugby and what should be done to steer the ship in the right direction?

WK: We need to stop playing our tribal cards and accept where we have failed. The constitution of the country advocates equal opportunities for all. We need to display good leadership qualities and promote acceptable values for the code to excel and the country at large. The players have done well with coaches at national level to market the code, but the administrators of rugby divorces any possible sponsors due to their lack of objectives and vision of the code. 
Thus rugby will remain one step to the front and three to the back. My opinion is that the NRL establishment is the best ever model rugby in Namibia needed as soon as yesterday. This integration and diversity is of primary importance for most sporting codes in Namibia. The NRL will provide opportunity for pursuing professionalism and we can play in the top 14, thus we will be better prepared to win games at the World Cup.

My last word is the administrators should stop acting like falling dominoes, which could be classified as a national disaster, whereas there are fellow countrymen with integrity and passion for what they are killing. 
Rugby is a job creation machine – just imagine for the national squad with 45 contracted players with salaries and supporting families. Plus Currie Cup squad of 45, and national under-17s with bursaries to various academic institutions. This is national capacity-building and poverty eradication.

CK: Thanks mate and enjoy your day. 

Carlos Kambaekwa
2018-11-13 10:24:53 9 months ago

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