Jersey’s Janco Venter is spoiling to change Namibia’s image as the winless whipping boys of the World Cup. The Africans arrive in Japan with a 0-19 record from their previous World Cup campaigns, but Venter is adamant a new mindset under head coach Phil Davies and a recent 30-28 win over Uruguay proves they have made significant strides.
This is despite still being the lowest ranked country – No23 – heading to Tokyo where they will be targeting games with Italy and Canada for that debut win in a pool that also features reigning champions New Zealand and South Africa.
Two storming tries by the ambitious Venter were crucial in the win over Uruguay last month and the English Championship level No8 believes the tournament will prove that the African minnows have players capable of operating in the Gallagher Premiership and the French Top 14.
Jacques Burger, who put his body on the line for Namibia and Saracens, has set the bar high for his fellow countrymen who want to play in Europe, but Venter wants the chance to prove he can compete with the best in the Premiership.
With the eyes of the rugby world – and numerous player agents – on the World Cup, Venter recognises the opportunities that could be created in Japan.
— Johan le Roux (@johanleroux13) June 9, 2019
The former Stellenbosch University and Western Province forward has made a real impact since moving to Jersey last year, helping the Championship side record a home win over London Irish who are now in the Premiership.
“The whole reason I came to Jersey is that it is such a good stepping stone up to the Premiership and the whole mentality at the club is to become a player who can operate at that level.
“By the end of next season, I hope I get that opportunity. The World Cup is a hell of an opportunity for a lot of guys in the Namibia squad who have never had the chance to show what they can do. If they can get seen, they will not only boost their careers but the whole of the country.
“In previous years we wanted to be able to compete but we have a different mindset now and that is down to Phil Davies, our coach. Phil is an unbelievable leader, has changed our mentality and we now go out to win.
“He has created a really positive attitude and the players love him. This has had a massive effect on Namibian rugby. After he retired Jacques Burger spoke to us and talked about mindset, believing in the system and not trying to be an individual hero,” explained Venter, a winner of 25 Test caps who is one of a small group of players operating outside Namibia.
That group includes Johan Deysel at Colomiers, Torsten van Jaarsveld and PJ van Lill at Bayonne, Lesley Klim at Ospreys and Renaldo Botha with Harlequins. Current Test scrum-half Helarius Kisting has headed to Romania and is currently playing for Baia Mare having left Luctonians, who play in level five of the English leagues.
“Our win over Uruguay was really important because they were above us in the rankings and this time we believed we could beat them. We had so much energy and showed a lot of character.
“The loss to Russia which followed that game saw us collect three yellow cards – I got one – and we made too many mistakes. Don’t rate us on the Russia game because a couple of us had played in eight successive Test wins until that loss.”
Namibia were defeated 58-14 by the All Blacks in World Cup 2015 when Venter was in the team alongside former Saracens flanker Burger. That match in London is etched into Venter’s memory and having played the All Blacks four years ago, he is thrilled with the prospect of a rematch in Japan.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) August 18, 2018
“Who would have thought after last time we would be getting another crack. We don’t get the chance to play many tier one countries. Four years ago we did a lot to disrupt them and we were proud of our performance.
“If I get chosen to face them again it will be a chance for all of us to test ourselves against the best in the world – it’s massive. We also have South Africa in the pool and they beat us 87-0 at the 2011 World Cup.
“As a country, we want to redeem ourselves and there is no better place than the tournament in Japan,” continued Venter, who turns 25 three days before Namibia’s opening match at the finals versus Italy.
The Jersey Reds rugby team @jerseyrfc has joined the Jersey Fire and Rescue Service @JsyFire for an interactive training session ahead of the 2019-2020 season https://t.co/fHBftWB49V pic.twitter.com/HD4Ouiafwn
— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) June 28, 2019
Venter will continue pre-season training with Jersey and Namibia’s other overseas-based players will also follow individual programmes before heading home to link up with the rest of the World Cup squad.
Namibia, though, are still waiting to discover who they will play in warm-up games. “I will head back in the second week of August and hopefully our warm-up matches will have been confirmed and we can crack on from there.”
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on the many adventures that fans can expect to experience in Japan at this year’s World Cup
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.