Former national rugby captain, Corné Powell, is confident that the Welwitschias will qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, despite the threat posed by Zimbabwe and Kenya in the qualifiers that start this weekend.
Powell played for Namibia 27 times between 2001 and 2007, including at the 2003 and 2007 World Cup tournaments, scoring 10 tries in tests matches.
He is currently a board member of the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU), representing the Namibia Rugby Players Association (NRPA).
The Welwitschias will open their qualification campaign on Saturday against Uganda at the Dr Hage Geingob Stadium, seeking a sixth consecutive World Cup appearance since the 1999 tournament.
Namibia is being coached by Wales-born mentor, Phil Davies, who took charge of the team before the 2015 Rugby World Cup, replacing former coach, Danie Vermeulen, who was relieved of his duties.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer, Powell said the Welwitschias should be wary of the threat posed by the Zimbabwean national team, the Sables that are now under the guidance of former Springboks coach, Peter de Villiers.
He also said Namibia is likely to struggle against Kenya, who are renowned in the Sevens competition.
De Villiers hasn’t coached international rugby since 2011, when South Africa was beaten at the quarter final stage of the World Cup by Australia, but his pedigree is without question within the rugby community.
“It is very important for Namibia to prepare well during the week. What Namibia needs to do is to stick with the same training routine and not to try to change. They need to analyse the Ugandan team because they love playing with speed and Namibia need to be aware of that,” Powell said.
“Previously, we used to beat teams with big margins, but this is not the case anymore because the teams have improved. You look at Zimbabwe that have De Villiers who comes with lots of knowledge and quality. He has ambition of taking them to the World Cup.
“The Kenyans are doing well in the Sevens and have added some players from the Sevens into their 15 team. I am confident that Namibia will qualify for the World Cup.”
After Uganda, Namibia will take on Tunisia in Windhoek on 23 June, while Zimbabwe will start its campaign at home against Morocco on Saturday before they play away to Kenya on 30 June.
Namibia’s match against Zimbabwe will be on 4 August in Zimbabwe.
“We just need to play to our strength and not try and make lots of changes in our play, such as in our forwards. We will need to attack Uganda and our lineouts also need to do much better.
“The Currie Cup and the SuperSport Rugby Challenge have really helped our team to get used at playing rugby at the highest level,” Powell said, adding that he is impressed with the work being done by Davies, whom he said has managed to get the best out of the players.
“Davies came to Namibia with vast experience and is used to the European style of playing and the pitches there in Europe are far much better than in Africa. He has settled in well in Namibia and also understands the Namibian culture of playing.”