Namibia’s senior rugby side, the Welwitschias, on Saturday kept their 2023 World Cup preparations well on course with a hard-fought 43-37 win over Canada at the National Rugby Centre in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Saturday’s match formed part of Namibia’s European tour, which is aimed at ramping up the Welwitschias readiness for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, where they will face New Zealand, France, Italy and Uruguay in Pool A.
Namibia kicked off her European tour with a 15-34 defeat to Spain in Madrid about a week ago – and going into Saturday’s match, they were looking to redeem themselves with a win against the unpredictable Canadians, who had earlier beaten the Netherlands 37-25 during a friendly.
All went according to plan for the Welwitschias at Amsterdam’s National Rugby Centre, where they went into the changeover tied at 24-24, before strongly coming into the second half to romp to a 43-37 win.
Namibian head coach Allister Coetzee expressed great satisfaction with the fighting spirit of his charge, saying they put up a courageous performance against a very difficult opponent.
“This win gives us the courage and motivation we need as we continue to put together the building blocks towards next year’s World Cup. The boys showed great spirit, and we are very happy with the result today. We fought back really well – and winning against such an opponent shows that we are making good progress. Heading into the tour, we had a few injuries, but we still managed to finish the tour on a high, and I think that is a big positive for us, as a team,” said Coetzee.
It was the first-ever victory for the Welwitschias over the Maple Leafs of Canada, and it comes three years after the two sides were meant to square off during the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Canada opened the scoring with a penalty goal from Cooper Coats – just two minutes in.
A response came soon after when Adriaan Ludick charged down a Jason Higgins box kick attempt.
The ball was recycled until the big man himself barreled over from close range for the try.
A sniping run from Coats put the Canadians back on the front foot and yielded an attacking lineout. The Welwitschias could not stop the drive, as Andrew Quattrin got credit for the score.
The Maple Leafs would cross again after a poor throw-in from Namibia. Quattrin smashed up the middle, and then Corey Thomas busted through three would-be tacklers to make the line, with the extras from Coats, making it 17-7 after 20 minutes.
After a short water break, Namibia found their way to the corner with Warren Ludwig on the end of a shovel pass on the short side from TC Kisting. Again, the lineout faltered; however, Canada’s accurate set piece was rewarded. Their driving maul was stopped, but Thomas was there to roll over from close range for his second try of the day.
The Namibians sprung to life with just a couple of minutes left in the half. Louis van der Westhuizen finally found his target in Ludick, and the hooker would then grab points for himself when the maul went over.
Moments later, a high ball from Kisting was lost in the sun by Josiah Morra – and the ball was spun wide from Le Roux Malan to Darryl Wellman. The debutant offloaded to Johan Deysel, and the captain went over a corner to make it 24-all at halftime.
The first score of the second half went to the Canadians. From an attacking lineout, the drive went on, and Quattrin broke off the back to dive over for a double. They would press for another try soon after, but a turnover from Wian Conradie saved the Welwitschias from further punishment.
Near the hour mark, Namibia were nearly over but JP van Lill was held up. They would get the score they wanted shortly after the dropout. The Canadians looked to have the ground covered but Andre van der Berg somehow slipped through on a 30-meter solo run, though the conversion attempt from Kisting – now playing flyhalf – was off the mark.
Coats nudged Canada further ahead with a penalty goal after a cross-kick attempt from Robbie Povey could not quite connect with Brock Webster. Namibia fired back with interest.
Repeat team infringements landed Josh Larsen in the bin, and van der Westhuizen grabbed his own brace at the bottom of a lineout drive. The extras from Kisting put Namibia in the lead for the first time.
With time winding down, Coats landed his seventh successful kick of the day to give Canada a precarious one-point lead. Namibia would win a kickable penalty with just seconds left on the clock but bizarrely opted for a kick to the corner.
The decision paid off. While the lineout drive was stopped, Kisting was waiting, and he broke free of two defenders to score the winning try. His kick was academic but found its mark to end the scoring. That completes the end-of-year tours for both sides.
Namibia will now start preparations for Rugby World Cup 2023 in earnest, with a few reinforcements expected for the tournament in France.
Caption: Welwitschias jpg –