Namibia sorry only for not achieving 1st RWC win
Updated: September 26, 2011, 06:19
Send to a friend
AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Namibia came to the Rugby World Cup intent on not just making up the numbers.
But the first team eliminated in the pool stage will leave a few numbers in its wake.
Of most disappointment was the record for futility with 15 straight losses in World Cup matches. The one thing they dearly wanted in the 2011 edition was a first Cup win, but a second-string Wales lineup closed the Cup on the out-manned Africans with an 81-7 rout in New Plymouth on Monday.
The odds were stacked against them before they landed in New Zealand. They were drawn in the scariest pool of all with defending champion South Africa, Samoa, Fiji and Wales - teams they'd met only a combined six times and never beaten. Then they were given a tough schedule, having to play all four inside 17 days.
The Namibians conceded 266 points, including 87 to the Springboks. But rugby fans will remember the Namibians less for their scores and more for their fight, for regathering themselves behind the posts while their opponents celebrated another try, and going back to work. The Namibians are used to that. More than half the side return to 9-to-5 jobs.
"If a team are going to beat us, they will have to work for it,'' said Jacques Burger, their dynamic, bent-nosed flanker and inspirational captain.
All four opponents did have to work for it. Fiji and Samoa were bruised to the point where they lost their next matches. South Africa led only 39-0 after an hour, and then their depth of reserves overwhelmed Namibia. Only four days later, Wales was kept quiet for 30 minutes, and received a halftime roasting from coach Warren Gatland.
When they weren't struggling to stop their scrum sliding backwards, catch their own lineout ball and hold possession in the rucks, the Namibians produced some rousing moments and five fine tries. And, beside Burger, the names of lock Heinz Koll, flanker Tinus du Plessis, scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies, centers Piet van Zyl and Danie van Wyk and fullback Chrysander Botha became familiar.
The fatigued Namibians posted their highest points total in a World Cup (44), highest World Cup score (25), and flyhalf Theuns Kotze, who came to the Cup with only one test cap, became their top point-scorer in a tournament (24).
But before heading back to their day jobs, the Namibians sought more help from the International Rugby Board.
The team draws on only 1,000 mainly amateur players. And their administration needs support. The Namibia Rugby Union CEO was suspended for financial irregularities last December and the IRB ran the union at the start of the year. And the Namibian union's president resigned on the eve of the tournament in protest at the lack of funding help from the government, which eventually coughed up some money.
"It is so tough, the boys get on with so little. They are happy with so little,'' Burger said.
Without money, Namibia can't afford home tests, and played at home only four times since the last World Cup. Their derby with the neighboring Springboks, which drew 25,000, was their first against a Tier One side since the last World Cup.
"Financially we are not strong enough and we are not playing against top sides throughout the year,'' Burger said. "We play a couple of tests throughout the year and we play sides, no disrespect, like Georgia and Romania, who are really good sides, but in order to get better we need to be competing with teams like Samoa, Fiji, Wales.''
Coach Johan Diergaardt never liked his team's World Cup scorelines, but he was proud of their effort.
"From our last World Cup I think there has been some improvement,'' he said. "But we will struggle as long as we play with amateur players.
"For the last two years we didn't play any tests in Namibia. We don't have the money for that. We struggled to get here.
"This was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, it wasn't in our favor. The short turnaround periods weren't good for us but the bottom line is we have to play more games at this level for us to compete.''