Springboks / 26 September 2019, 1:40pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen
JOHANNESBURG – Namibia will play their 21st Rugby World Cup game on Saturday, but it is unlikely they will register a first win against two-time champions and one of the favourites to go all the way in Japan, the Springboks, when the teams meet in a Pool B match in the City of Toyota Stadium.
The men from south west Africa have lost their last 20 outings from five previous appearances at the tournament, including last week’s opening Pool B match against Italy (47-22).
The Boks also came unstuck in their opener, against New Zealand (23-13), but the gulf in class between Rassie Erasmus’ team and Namibia is huge.
Erasmus though, while recognising his team will be far stronger than the Namibians, said he didn’t know too much about Phil Davies’ team.
“Namibia are a little bit of an unknown factor for us,” said the Bok boss yesterday. “We studied them in the build-up to this tournament and then also watched them against Italy ... they look like a team that just wants to play and enjoy the game and have some fun.
“They are our neighbours so we also know we’ll be in for a physical battle. It’s one of those games where if you fall into the trap of playing like they want you to, then it can be a fun game for them, but a messy one for us. We will have to be clinical and force our style on them.”
And while Erasmus and some of the Bok players know many of the Namibian players who play in the South African rugby competitions, Welwitschias forwards coach Jaco Engels also knows plenty about the Bok squad. Engels played for the Bulls for many years and also played with and against Erasmus and his assistants Matt Proudfoot and Mzwandile Stick.
“I played with Rassie and Mzwandile in the Eastern Cape and Matt, who also comes from Potchefstroom, actually helped me become a better prop. He taught me a lot of stuff so we know each other quite well,” said Engels.
He added that while there was a strong bond between the “African siblings” Saturday’s Test would be a full-blooded Test. “The boys will greet each other nicely because there’s a mutual respect there, but between those four lines it’s war.”
In 1999, in their first World Cup appearance, Namibia were in Pool C where they lost to Fiji (67-18), France (47-13) and Canada (72-11). In 2003, they came unstuck in Pool A against Argentina (67-14), Ireland (64-7), Australia (142-0) and Romania (37-7).
In 2007, when the Boks went all the way and won the tournament, the Namibians lost in Pool D to Argentina (63-3), France (87-10), Georgia (30-0) and Ireland 32-17. Four years later, in 2011, they were in Pool D and came unstuck against Fiji 49-25, Samoa 49-12, South Africa 87-0, and Wales 81-7.
At the last tournament, in 2015, the Namibians also lost all their games, in Pool C, against New Zealand 58-14, Tonga 35-21, Georgia 17-16, and Argentina 64-19.
Engels said his players were looking forward to testing themselves against the Boks this weekend. “We know what’s coming; it’s going to be a game of attrition.
Like every game, there are no friends on the field, but afterwards we can shake hands and, hopefully, have a few beers.”