The recent appointment of Peter de Villiers as the new Zimbabwe rugby national team coach means the Welwitschias will have to double their efforts in their bid to qualify for a sixth straight International Rugby Board (IRB) World Cup finals next year.
Six teams -Namibia, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda- will contest the 2018 Gold Cup, which will act as the final qualification round for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.
With de Villiers now in charge of Zimbabwe, Namibia will need to redouble their efforts if they are to have any chances of rubbing shoulders once again against the best rugby-playing nations next year.
De Villiers was the first-ever person of colour to be appointed Springboks coach from 2008 to 2011, after successes with the South African U19 and U21 squads.
He comes with an impressive pedigree, having beaten the All Blacks 19-8 on 5 July 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand for the first time in a decade, before achieving three successive victories over the New Zealanders on his way to the 2009 Tri-Nations title.
On 25 July 2009, the Springboks beat the All Blacks 28 – 19, followed it up with two more victories a 31-19 win on 1 August 2009 and a 32-29 win on 12 September 2009.
The Zimbabwe national rugby team has competed in two Rugby World Cup tournaments in 1987 and 1991.
With the Apartheid-era exclusion of South Africa, Zimbabwe was the first African nation to compete at the rugby World Cup
Welwitschias coach, Phil Davies, said while Zimbabwe has made a very good appointment in De Villiers, it is not only the neighbours that will pose a big threat to his team, but the rest of the countries in the qualifiers.
“It is a very good appointment for Zimbabwe; Peter is a quality coach and very experienced rugby man, but the encounters were always going to be close and tough. Teams in Africa are improving year in and year out. All of us at the Namibian rugby union are always looking to maximise our efforts and this campaign will be no different. We respect all our opponents and they all bring their own challenges each match we play. It is fantastic to see Peter back in test rugby,” Davies said.
The Welwitschias have not yet started with their training camp for the World Cup qualifiers, but the Currie Cup team started training on 8 January 2018.
“We are hoping to announce our national team training schedule soon. The Currie cup team has been training since 8 January and is working hard. The country should be excited about our young team and our third Currie Cup campaign,” Davies said.
Namibia has been at the World Cup in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Namibia is currently ranked 23 in the world and second in Africa behind the Springboks, while Zimbabwe are ranked 44 in the world and fifth in Africa.