Welwitschias fall to Portugal …as team shifts focus to Africa Cup

Welwitschias fall to Portugal …as team shifts focus to Africa Cup

Limba Mupetami

Portugal heads into this weekend’s Test match against South Africa teeming with confidence after a 34-22 victory over the Welwitschias of Namibia in an international Test match played at Dr Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.

Simon Mannix’s career as Portugal’s head coach began in the best possible way, defeating the Namibian team, currently in a developmental phase. The Namibians struggled in many areas of the match, continuing a challenging period following a heavy 92-8 defeat by the Vodacom Blue Bulls. 

The home team, inspired by Tiaan Swanepoel kicking from the tee, landed a six-point lead in the opening minutes before the Portuguese hit back with a try. Domingos Cabral punted the ball in Rodrigo Marta’s direction. Cabral converted from the corner.

In the following quarter, both teams exchanged blows, but the Portuguese would come out on top. Nicolás Martins, for Portugal, and Max Katjijeko, for Namibia, added their names to the score-sheet. Mannix’s side were in control for most of the first 40 minutes, showcasing a well-oiled set-piece plan, while Allister Coetzee’s men had a good chance to take the lead before half-time, only to lose control in the last phase of play due to inexperience.

Namibia seemed to have the upper hand after half-time, until a flourish of steps from Cabral opened enough gaps for wing José Paiva dos Santos to run through and dive over the try line. The European visitors didn’t take their foot off the pedal, looking to build on their lead.

Swanepoel was successful with four more penalty kick attempts, but it wasn’t enough. With 15 minutes of play left on the clock, Portugal fullback Manuel Cardoso Pinto pulled off a magic trick, side-stepping a couple of Namibian defenders to raise the score to 32-22, leaving Manuel Vareiro to add the extras in his debut for the Portuguese national team. The last time Portugal visited Namibia in 1990, they suffered a substantial 86-09 loss.

Captain Danco Burger, who stepped in after Prins !Gaoseb was side-lined due to injury, emphasised the positives. “There are many positives we take away from this match,” he  said, reflecting on the team’s performance and growth.

Man of the match Tiaan Swanepoel shared his thoughts on the game: “We had them. We played much better than we did previously. We focused on the details, and threw the first punch. Unfortunately, we had two injuries, including one our captain sustained, which was a drawback. However, the support from the fans was amazing.”

Portugal, a tier-two nation, now sets its sights on challenging the formidable South African team, who are fresh off being crowned four-time world champions. The match will take place on Saturday at the historic Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

In addition, South Africa’s recent encounter with Ireland was a thrilling affair, with Ciarán Frawley’s last-gasp drop goal securing a dramatic 25-24 victory in Durban, resulting in a 1-1 series draw. This sets the stage for another exciting Test match, as Portugal aim to build on their momentum from Namibia.

This was Namibia’s last fixture of the July internationals as the team will now shift their focus to the upcoming Africa Cup, scheduled to take place in Uganda in two weeks. This tournament will provide an opportunity for further development, and a chance to regroup after their recent challenging matches. 

-Additional reporting by RugbyPass