Namibia’s men senior rugby coach Phil Davies says he is still to decide who will captain Namibia at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan,
despite Johan Deysel having captained the team in the Africa Gold Cup (World Cup qualifiers).
Deysel has been stand-in captain for Namibia in most of the Africa Gold Cup campaign since Renaldo Bothma, who has captained the squad since 2016 following the retirement of former great Jacques Burger, is out of action due to injuries.
Davies has a lot of options to choose from for the captaincy, with the likes of most capped player Eugene Jantjies, with 66th cap, amongst those in line to lead the country at next year’s world cup.
“Bothma was captain but is currently injured. Deysel did a brilliant job as acting captain. I do not know when I will select a captain because we will have to take a bit of time to reflect on the position because we have lots of leadership depth on the team. Maybe we will select a captain in early part of next year,” Davies told the Windhoek Observer during last Saturday’s team’s impressive 53-28 win over Kenya in the final match of the Africa Gold Cup held at the Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium, where Namibia booked a place at next year’s world cup.
“Namibia will now play against world rugby champions New Zealand’s All Blacks, South Africa’s Springboks, Italy and the winner of the Repechage in Pool B.”
Davies is confident about his new look Welwitschias, compared to the 2015 team that he inherited from Danie Vermeulen, who was sacked before the world cup that year, despite having guided the team to the championship games after he fell out with the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU).
“Our average team age at the 2015 world cup was 31 years and we did not have lots of depth, but this time around our average squad is 24 years old and we have lots of depth now. We are just going to enjoy the result for now and start to plan. This world cup plan started four years ago and we really put in a lot of work,” Davies said.
Damian Stevens, who was surprisingly included by Davies in the 2015 world cup squad at the tender age of 21 years, is fighting for a starting place in the team, after he was left out from the starting 15 against Kenya before he was brought in the second half.
Stevens currently plays for the Natal Sharks rugby in South Africa.
“There are lots of scrumhalves in the team such as Jantjies and Cliven Loubser and I will be fighting for that position. I am currently registered with the Sharks first team and not the academy team but was loaned out to Tafel Lager Griquas (also in South Africa) for sixth months, then I am going back to the Sharks,” Stevens (23) said.
Injured player Lesley Klim, who did not play against Kenya is hoping to make his first world cup appearance and currently plays professional rugby for Ospreys in Wales.
“I am leaving for my club this week. I am currently fine and hopefully, I will play club rugby very soon. It is a huge feeling to qualify and I hope to play at my first world cup,” Klim said.
In 2016, Tjiuee Uanivi became the first black player to captain the Welwitschias since independence, after he was made captain by Davies during the 2016 Africa Cup Nation (today known as the Africa Gold Cup) campaign against Uganda in Kampala on 2 July 2016.
This year’s Repechage games will be a round-robin tournament between four teams to be held during the November test window, with Kenya being one of the teams to be involved in the mini-tournament after they finished second in the Africa world cup qualifiers despite losing to Namibia.
The Repechage is the last-chance opportunity for any team to qualify for the rugby World Cup.
President of Rugby Africa, Abdelaziz Bougja told the Windhoek Observer that he is happy with Namibia’s qualification to the Rugby World Cup and is looking forward to a win from the team.
Namibia will be participating at its 6th World Rugby World Cup, having participated in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, but failed to win a single match.
“Namibia’s good preparation for the World Cup qualifier is due to the investment we have put in as Rugby Africa, like this competition (Africa Gold Cup). I have seen great progress from Namibia. I just hope that Namibia wins a match and I hope that Kenya also qualify through the Repechage,” Bougja said.
Bougja said was shocked to hear that the Namibia Rugby Premier League (NRPL) did not have a league sponsor.
NRPL has been without a sponsor since 2013 after former sponsor MTC ended its relation with the NRU.
“I am surprised to hear that the league does not have a sponsor. I will have to discuss this with the NRU president (Corrie Mensah). We from rugby Africa have brought lots of changes to Rugby Africa such as promoting referees and Sevens rugby tournaments,” Bougja said.
The 2019 World Cup will run from 20 September -2 November 2019.