… As Welwitschias face daunting World Cup challenge
By John Tuerijama
NATIONAL rugby coach Phil Davies is confident that Namibia will have a successful Rugby World Cup qualification campaign, once the African qualifiers draw is finalised.
He was also adamant that if the Welwitschias qualify and compete in Pool B, which already comprises world champions New Zealand, South Africa and Italy, the Land of the Brave will not end up being a laughing stock at the tournament.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup draw was held in Kyoto, Japan a week ago, and it was revealed that the winner of the African qualifiers will join Pool B, which already comprises the three big name teams, as well as the eventual Repechange format winner.
Namibia has also been invited to play in the 2017 Nations Cup in Uruguay from 10 to 18 June, as well as the Rugby Africa Gold Cup 2017 in July, which will both serve as preparation for the World Cup qualification campaign.
Responding to questions from Confidente, Davies said that World Cup qualification is very important for his team, and the country as a whole.
He said that participation at the World Cup gives the country a real sense of pride and identity, through the game of rugby.
Senegal and Tunisia have joined Namibia, as well as Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, to battle it out for an automatic qualification spot at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. In terms of the so-called Repechange format, the African runner-up will have an opportunity to play against one of the Americas’ teams, for a spot at the tournament.
The date on which the draw for the African qualifiers will take place is yet to be announced.
Commenting on Namibia’s participation in the Currie Cup and the SuperSport Challenge, which sees the Land of the Brave battling it out against South African teams, Davies said the key was to bridge the gap between club and international rugby.
He said that playing in the Currie Cup helps with this.
Davies said that although the World Cup qualification campaign will be a lengthy one, which will last into 2018, he is looking at assembling the best possible squad for this daunting task.
The coach is of the opinion that to have a successful qualifying campaign, the country needs its best possible players.
To ensure that the foreign-based legion is part and parcel of the qualification campaign, Davies will consider Namibian players who ply their trade in South Africa and beyond.
“All players are important, particularly our home-based players, as this is where the heartbeat of the team lies. The key with the overseas players is that many of them are fully professional, and therefore add vital experience and skill, to complement the home-based players,” Davies stressed.
“We are in regular touch with the overseas-based players, and they are very proud to represent Namibia, like all our players.”
Looking at Namibia’s strengths and the priority areas during the preparation period for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, the national coach said that the country has an amazing amount of courage and flair to its game.
“The focus areas will be improving fitness and creating depth in our front-five forward base,” said the coach.
Looking at Pool B, where Namibia will play in, if they win the African qualification competition or emerge as the Repechange winner, they will face an uphill battle against New Zealand, South Africa and Italy.
Namibia has never won a World Cup match, since their first appearance in the competition in 1999, and the coach admitted that it will be very tough, should Namibia qualify.
“That’s the first tough job and we will think about the rest later,” he said. The coach said that it has always been Namibia’s objective to win a World Cup match, and the current group of players were determined to be the first crop to do this.
“Qualification is getting more difficult, as the years go by, due to the ever-improving nature of the other African teams,” he said.
Asked if Namibia will be a laughing stock, because of the strength of Pool B, Davies said that they were certainly no laughing stock at the last World Cup, and should they qualify, they intend to improve further, and build on their 2015 performances in England.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015