Former Welwitschias captain, Sean Furter, expects the senior national rugby team to cruise past Kenya in the winner-takes-all final match of the 2019 Rugby Africa Gold Cup scheduled for Saturday at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek.
This year’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup also serves as the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifier, with Namibia defending the trophy it won last year on home soil after beating Kenya 45-7.
On Saturday, Namibia will be in search of a sixth straight world cup appearance, while Kenya who are famously known as one of the world’s best Sevens rugby playing nations, will be on the hunt for their first ever world cup appearance in the traditional format of the game.
Namibia top the group with 20 points, followed by Kenya on 17 points. A win for either side will see them qualify for the world cup in Japan next year.
A confident sounding Furter said he expects the Welwitschias to use Saturday’s match more like a training session in order for the national team selectors to identify good combinations ahead of next year’s rugby world cup in Japan.
Furter captained the national team at the 2003 world cup in Australia and was also part of the Welwitschias team that made its first world cup appearance in 1999 in Wales.
“I think Namibia will use the match to try and get the combinations right ahead of the world cup. Namibia is a better team than Kenya and playing at home gives them an advantage,” Furter said.
Furter, who likened the current squad to the great 1999 team, reckons that the current generation of rugby stars is capable of winning a world cup match next year, something that no other Namibian team has ever done before.
“If I am to compare the current team to any previous side, I will say that it is similar to the one of 1999 when we first qualified to the world cup. What we want to see from this team is more wins. We want him (Coach Phil Davies) to give us a win at the world cup,” Furter said.
One player who knows very well about the world cup is Eugene Jantjies, who will be playing in his 66th match for Namibia on Saturday since making his debut in 2006.
The scrum-half turned 31 on 10 August and is set to retire from international rugby after the games in Japan if Namibia qualifies.
Jantjies played professional rugby in Romania for Farul Constanta, Bucure?ti Wolves, and Dinamo Bucure?ti as well as for The Leopards in South Africa.
“The win for Kenya last weekend does not really put pressure on us, but we will need to do what we have been doing in the previous matches. It gives us an advantage at home and we have beaten them before on several occasions and we know how they play,” Jantjies said.
Welwitschias coach, Davies, told the Windhoek Observer that preparations for the match against Kenya have been going on well despite a minor injury to Lesley Klim, who is expected to be fit for Saturday’s match.
“We have a great spirit in the camp and all are looking forward to the challenge of Kenya. We have a few injuries, Lesley (Klim) is our main worry, but he should be fine,” Davies said.
Kenya heads into the match on the back of four successive wins, and last weekend’s 67-0 thrashing of Tunisia, means that the Namibian team cannot afford to rest on its laurels.
Head coach, Ian Snook, told Rugby Africa after his team’s emphatic win over Tunisia that his side is coming to Namibia to win and not to qualify for the repechage (second chance).
“We would love to qualify directly to Japan and that's the goal, to beat Namibia. There is, however, a second chance of repechage, but there is a big week ahead of us,” Snook said.
The Rugby World Cup 2019 Repechage tournament will be hosted at a neutral venue in France.
In previous years, the Repechage, a last-chance opportunity to qualify for RWC, has followed a knock-out format in line with the rest of the qualification process.
This year’s edition, however, will be a round-robin tournament between four teams to be held during the November test window.