… But miss out on lucrative Gold Cup
By John Tueriajama
RECENTLY crowned Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) Premier League champions, the FNB Unam Rugby Club, who last Friday hammered arch-rivals FNB Wanderers, to clinch their third consecutive title, have had their hopes dashed of competing in the South African Gold Cup in September.
However, the team will be touring South Africa anyway, during the same month, where they will compete against a number of top teams.
The planned trip to South Africa at the end of September is aimed at testing and exposing Unam players to strong opponents, who they will face during their week-long tour.
Among the teams they will face are Mossel Bay Rugby Club and Evergreen from the Western Cape.
Unam, who remained undefeated throughout the season, thrashed Wanderers 42-28 in a pulsating final match of the season last weekend.
In an interview with Confidente, Unam head coach, Johan Diergaardt said that he is extremely happy and delighted that his players have once again shown their dominance in the elite domestic league.
“I am very happy, and I think the players did exceptionally great, and have played very well throughout the season, because we have not lost a single match,” said the coach.
An elated Diergaardt said that although the league was competitive, and they had to endure tough opposition, as all their opponents wanted to slaughter Unam, they kept their discipline and commitment to the overall objective of retaining the title.
He then turned his attention to the lucrative South African Gold Cup, which features that country’s provincial champions.
Diergaardt said that he was confident that now that there is a new executive tasked with organising the neighbouring country cup, he was hopeful that they might have a chance to compete.
In the past, championship was for open clubs, and because Unam is a university team they were not allowed to compete.
During a later interview, NRU Acting Chief Executive Officer, Elizma Theron, confirmed that Unam would not be allowed to take part in the South African Gold Cup, and said it is very unfortunate that they will not be allowed to compete.
“We have submitted an application, and have motivated it as best we could, but the South African Rugby Union informed us that they (Unam) will not be allowed, because they linked to an educational institution, and thus cannot take part,” Theron said.
A disappointed Diergaardt later said that the competition could have seen Unam testing themselves against some of the strongest clubs in the neighbouring country.
Unam have dominated the local elite rugby for several years, but will not receive any prize money for winning the league.
However, Diergaardt thanked Namibian Breweries Limited for coming on board and assisting the club financially, in terms of their upcoming South African tour.
He said there are a number of other companies have expressed interest in injecting finances, ahead of the week-long tour. The Unam head coach also indicated that the NRU will also assist them financially. He also thanked the university for providing transport to the rugby club and for the use of the Unam field, for their matches. Diergaardt said that in 2016, the Unam Rugby Club had two national players in their ranks, but that this year that number has risen to nine nationally capped players.
“That to me it is so satisfying and my players truly deserve it. We must be satisfied, since our players are very young, and have also featured in the national under-20 rugby team,” said the coach.
Diergaardt said the commitment shown by his players throughout the season was evident, as they were willing to learn and adapt to the workload required.
Asked if Unam has any foreign player in the team, the head coach said that Barry Kande, who dons the number six jersey, is the only foreign player.
He, however, expressed optimism that more foreign students at the university will join the rugby club.
“I hope more foreign students will start training with us, but I guess because of the academic pressure, they are not really that committed, but I certainly hope they will join us.”
Theron said that the NRU is engaging other South African competitions, where Unam could be afforded the opportunity to compete in.
She added that they are still awaiting a response from the South African Gold Cup Board, in terms of their application to have the national rugby team compete in this year’s competition.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015