5 Reasons Why Namibia Can Break Their World Cup Duck in 2015
Namibia needed to beat Madagascar by 53 points on Sunday in their final qualifying match to appear at the 2015 World Cup, and ran out 89-10 victors. Their World Cup hopes rest on their strong collective spirit and their handful of international-class players.
Breaking their World Cup duck will be a stiff challenge, but here are five reasons they can do it.
1. Jacques Burger
In Jacques Burger, Namibia have an inspirational leader and ferocious defender. The Saracens flanker made an astonishing 27 tackles in the 69 minutes he was on the field against Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-final this year.
After that match, Saracens coach Mark McCall heaped praise on Burger’s attitude, as per the Daily Mail:
Last year when he came back after 18 months out, it looked like it might be over for him.
People don’t see what he has to do to play in games like this. The ice machine is his best friend. He ices his knee five hours a day, which is an incredible sacrifice for him. He was inspirational.
For a side used to leaking tries, the defensive cover provided by Jacques Burger is the main reason Namibia can dream of a victory in World Cup match.
Inspired by their captain Jacques Burger, Namibia will be whole-hearted throughout their matches. They may not possess dazzling skill, but few will be able to match their determination.
For example, when they beat their 2015 Pool C rivals Georgia at the IRB Nations Cup Final in 2010, they came back from a bleak half-time deficit of 13-0 to win 21-16. They have courage and determination in abundance, key factors that will aid their push for a World Cup win.
Another fine case in point was their final qualifying match against Madagascar on Sunday. Rather than be daunted by needing to win by 53 points to progress to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Namibia were invigorated.
With Burger injured, captain for the day Rohan Kitshoff reiterated this message post-match, as recorded by ESPN: "We go to England 2015 full of expectation and are determined to do ourselves, our nation and African rugby proud."
Jacques Burger epitomises self-sacrifice, and the other members of the Namibian team play with equal heart. Burger spent 18 months on the sidelines following a severe knee injury. As his Saracens coach Mark McCall told Mick Cleary of The Telegraph during the time Burger was injured:
None of us really know how difficult it was for him. He had done so much for us in the two years prior to that we felt he deserved our loyalty.
But in a squad with many amateur players, sacrifice is not just putting your body on the line on the field. It’s about training for hours in the evenings after work, giving up family time in order to pursue the dream of representing Namibia, of playing in the World Cup. This experience gives the Namibian players even more pride and motivation at the World Cup.
3. Rohan Kitshoff
On the other flank to Jacques Burger, Namibia have Rohan Kitshoff. Kitshoff plays his rugby in South Africa, where he has captained Western Province in the Vodacom Cup. In addition, Kitshoff’s experience in the Currie Cup and the Super XV will help take some of the leadership burden off the broad shoulders of Burger. His defence and breakdown guile will also be crucial to his team’s chances at the World Cup.
5. Stifle Georgia's Pack, Attack with Chrysander Botha
Namibia have been drawn in Pool C with world champions New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia. Namibia will be looking at the game against Georgia as the match they can win at the World Cup. In so doing, they would avenge a 30-0 defeat from the 2007 World Cup and record their first ever win in the tournament.
All the teams in the pool are physically imposing, but it is Georgia who make muscle up front the cornerstone of their play. However, with Burger tackling anything within arm’s reach around the ruck, and Kitshoff mastering the breakdown, Namibia may be able to stifle the Georgians at their own game.