For a team that has never won a Rugby World Cup match in 20 attempts, things aren’t about to get any easier for Namibia.
At the last World Cup the Welwitschias had the ‘honour’ of being paired with New Zealand during the group stages.
In 2019, they haven’t managed to escape the three-time World Champions, again sharing a pool with the All Blacks, but they’re also now joined by two-time World Champions South Africa.
The Springboks may not have named their strongest side for Saturday’s clash between the neighbouring nations, but that isn’t much consolation to Namibian defence coach Dale McIntosh.
“If we’re brutally honest, it’s a huge mountain to climb,” McIntosh said of the upcoming game.
“They’re a great side and playing well. They can play a power game but equally a tempo game. We’ve just got to concentrate on improving, concentrate on what we’re good at and then, if we’re in with a shout, we’ve got to try to stay in the fight.”
Namibia qualified for the World Cup as the second-best side in Africa behind their neighbours, but McIntosh is under no illusions as to what that really means for his squad.
“We’re the second-best team in Africa, but probably by a country mile.
“But we can’t fear them. We can respect them but we can’t fear them, otherwise we might as well not show up.”
Russia next week was the match where Ireland were expected to make wholesale changes, but eight alterations are now likely when they face Japan on Saturday in their second match of the finals
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 25, 2019
With the two countries situated side-by-side, it’s no surprise that there are a number of connections between the teams.
One such connection involves Namibian prop Johannes Coetzee and South African utility Frans Steyn – who played in his first Rugby World Cup way back in 2007.
“We played together [in France] at Racing Metro. We’re close friends,” said Coetzee.
“His family are also in Bloemfontein, so we see each other often.
There will be no love lost between the two players, however.
“I would like to give him a nice greeting, maybe in a tackle,” Coetzee laughed.
“Ruffle his hair a little bit and say, ‘hey mate, how are you?’”
The two sides met at the 2011 World Cup, which saw South Africa canter away to an 87-0 victory. At the last tournament, however, Namibia’s biggest loss was by ‘just’ 45 points. There were also great signs from the Welwitschias during their first-up loss to Italy.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 6:45PM JST from Toyota Stadium in the Aichi prefecture.
For fans travelling to Toyota to catch the game been the two African nations, there’s plenty to keep you occupied during the day:
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