Young Namibia learning from South Africa

13th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, Sept 13, 2007 (AFP) - When the All Blacks won the first World Cup in 1987, Namibia didn't exist.

BORDEAUX, France, Sept 13, 2007 (AFP) - When the All Blacks won the first World Cup in 1987, Namibia didn't exist.

Twenty years ago it was still called South-West Africa, was being administered by regional superpower neighbour South Africa and was scarred by a prolonged guerilla war.

With independence in 1990 came hope on the rugby front and Namibia are now playing in their third World Cup after first qualifying in 1999, an admirable achievement for a nation of just over two million people and less than 1,500 adult players.

Some of their squad ply their trade in the South African championship - like centre Piet van Zyl and flanker Jacques Nieuwenhuis who scored both of their team's tries in their 32-17 loss to Ireland in their opening match of the World Cup.

"We play Currie Cup against each other in South Africa (Nieuwenhuis for the Falcons and van Zyl for Boland) and at one time we didn't like each other, but now we've been thrown together we get on well," said Nieuwenhuis.

"It's good to get to know about each other on rugby tours."

Just like in South Africa, the sport is dominated by Afrikaaners but Namibia can boast eight black and coloured players in their 30-man squad.

Namibia has tapped into her neighbour's rugby knowledge and infrastructure with two physical trainers hired to help with the preparation and a mobile gym shipped across the border and installed outdoors in the capital Windhoek.

Coach Hakkies Husselman also has plenty of South Africa connections.

He played 18 times at scrum-half for the national team and spent his club career in South Africa with the Griquas, Pumas, Leopards, playing in the Currie Cup and in the Super 12 with the Cats and Bulls.

Husselman said his major influences have been former Springboks coach Andre Markgraaf and Heineke Meyer, who took the Bulls to the Super 14 title in 2007.
"In life, you adapt or die," said the coach. "It's the same on the pitch."

Husselman belives that philosophy will drive Namibian rugby forward and he has been keen to build more bridges with South Africa.

He wants more games between the two nations and to see more players making the professional grade.

Only seven of the 30-man Namibian squad in France are professional; the rest work and then train for an hour every morning and two hours every night.

However, relationships between Namibia and South Africa are not always cordial.

One of their best players Skipper Badenhorst, who plays at hooker with the Sharks, officially declined not to take part in the World Cup.

However, Namibian officials believe his club employers put pressure on Badenhorst not to play after the Sharks lost their two top hookers - John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis - to the Springboks' World Cup squad.


Subject: French news, Rugby World Cup 2007

0 Comments To This Article