Namibia won't be friendly to their Southern neigbours the Springboks when they meet at the World Cup. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Namibia won't be friendly to their Southern neigbours the Springboks when they meet at the World Cup. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters

'No room for brotherly love' - Namibia scrum coach ahead of Springbok clash

By Time of article published Sep 25, 2019

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TOYOTA – Namibia scrum coach Jaco Engels is relishing the opportunity to reunite with his South African "brothers" this weekend but knows everything changes at the first whistle.

The Southern African nations have met once before at the World Cup, with the Welwitschias, as Namibia are nicknamed, losing 87-0 in 2011. 

Before that, South Africa beat their neighbours 105-13 in an RWC warm-up game in 2007.

They are due to meet once more this Saturday in Toyota, and Engels, 38, is uniquely placed to preview the next chapter in their intertwined histories.

He was born in the diamond-mining town Oranjemund on the Namibian side of the border, in the country formerly known as South West Africa, before it gained independence from their "big brothers" in 1990.

At the age of three, Engels moved with his family to Potchefstroom in South Africa, where he learned the dark arts as a frontrow forward and went on to play club rugby for the Blue Bulls, featuring in squads that won Currie Cup and Super Rugby titles while in Pretoria.

But despite playing almost all his club rugby in South Africa, he made his Test debut for the land of his birth in 2013, aged 32, and went on to earn 15 caps, including three at RWC 2015.

Now he is part of head coach Phil Davies's backroom staff, armed with extensive insider knowledge on former teammates and coaches in the Springboks set-up.

"I know them quite well," Engels said at the team's hotel in Toyota on Tuesday.

"I played against Rassie (Erasmus), I played with their backline coach Mzwandile Stick at the Kings and with their forwards' coach Matt Proudfoot in my younger days at the Leopards.

"Matt is also from Potchefstroom. He actually helped me to play prop. He taught me a lot of stuff so we know each other quite well."

Unlike the often bitter rivalries between other neighbouring countries, Engels describes the dynamic between Namibia and South Africa as closer to that of siblings.

"They always look at us as a little brother," he said. "They look after us. They always try to help us by inviting us to participate in their competitions. Some of our guys play in South Africa and a lot of us have studied there.

"There's always been a close relationship. The economies are linked. We speak the same language. Namibia is a lot more relaxed but it's the same type of people, the same type of values."

Nevertheless, Engels is deeply proud of his Namibian heritage and happy to adhere to his country's rich cultural traditions.

"My father grew up in Namibia so I've always been made aware that I'm a Namibian. There are certain values you grow up with. Obviously, the main one is loving meat. I've always loved beer, too, specifically Namibian beer. It's a loyalty thing."

Never one to shy away from confrontation on the field, Engels expects a full-blooded Test on Saturday, with the Springboks hunting a third World Cup and the Welwitschias desperate to avoid another heavy defeat at the hands of their continental brothers.

"The boys will greet each other nicely. There's a mutual respect there. But between those four lines, it's war.

"They have a lot of player depth and their A or their B team is always dangerous. You can never underestimate them. We know what's coming. It's going to be a game of attrition.

"After that, they can shake a few hands, hopefully, have a few beers. But like every game, there are no friends on the field. Never." 

African News Agency (ANA)

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