The battle line has been drawn – and today, Namibia’s senior rugby team, the Welwitschias, take on Madagascar in a make or break 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifier encounter in Abidjan.
Namibia, ranked 25th in the world, got off to a shaky start in their Africa Gold Cup (AGC) campaign, going down 24-13 to Ivory Coast on Saturday.
They must now beat Madagascar, ranked 52nd in the world, as a defeat would mean failure to qualify for the world rugby showpiece for the first time since their maiden appearance in 1999.
Only the top two sides from each of the four pools will make it through to the next phase of qualification in 2022.
Namibia have beaten the island nation twice before in Rugby World Cup qualifiers: 89-10 in 2014 and 112-0 in 2002.
Local rugby pundits, however, said the Welwitchias can achieve their grand mission of qualifying for the World Cup, but only if they stick to the right game plan.
Grootfontein Rugby Club chairperson and coach, Wikus Jacobs, said chances of winning against Madagascar are high if the right game plan will be put in place.
“I believe their chances are huge. Looking at the current crop of players who were called for duty, most of them are experienced and have played at that level before. If right mind and strategy will be applied, I believe a much-needed win will prevail,” he said.
He further said the defeat against the host nation, Ivory Coast, was an eye-opener for the team to ensure they take a different approach in today’s encounter.
Rehoboth Rugby Club head coach Johann Wohler said the team has a good chance of redeeming themselves against Madagascar, given the quality the current squad boasts.
He said this will require various tough changes from coach Allister Coetzee to change the game.
“The chances of beating Madagascar is huge. Namibia has a great team with depth, although they did not show it in their previous match. Now that it is a must-win game for Namibia, I am sure they will go out there and give their best.