By Carlos Kambaekwa
The Namibian Rugby Union has moved up a gear from a mere ‘participating union’ to ‘performance level’ following the Welwitschias’ good showing at the World Cup finals in France last year.
The move that was sanctioned by the International Rugby Union (IRB) will see the usually cash-strapped union receiving a hefty annual allowance from the IRB, which amounts to an increase of 35%, a handsome windfall of N$1,7 million.
In addition, the international rugby governing body has also given the thumbs up to the Namibian Rugby Union for the appointment of a full-time director of rugby with the vacant position to be advertised before the end of next week.
The IRB manager for development will arrive in the country soon to oversee the recruitment process as the NRU starts getting its ducks in the row ahead of preparation for the next World Cup finals in New Zealand in 2011.
Namibia is expected to make a fourth straight appearance at the global showpiece after the IRB scoffed at suggestions by world’s rugby top tier nations to slash down the number of participating nations form 20 to 16 – a move that could have made it extremely difficult for Namibia in the qualifying stages.
Meanwhile, the NRU held its annual general meeting at its headquarters in Windhoek last weekend and resolved to embark upon several initiatives and development structures that could witness the much-anticipated establishment of women’s rugby.
Amongst the issues topping the agenda on Saturday was the burning topic of the World Cup tickets scandal, but the issue was summarily removed from the agenda as it was deemed sub judice since the case was already under
review with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
In an exclusive interview with New Era Sport, the Chief Executive Officer of the NRU Christo Alexander said plans are afoot to have Namibian rugby re-integrated into the structures of the South African Rugby Union.
“We are hopeful SARU will allow us to play in the more competitive provincial Vodacom League as a stepping stone towards professionalizing Namibian rugby, and we also resolved to revert back to the old system of having regional teams in a bid to bridge the gap between players from the capital and those residing in outlying areas,” said the rugby administrator.
The regional teams will be pitted against each other with the top performers from that bunch earning themselves a place in the Namibian A team earmarked to compete against sub-unions in South Africa.
Meanwhile, history is in the making as the NRU resolves to put eight players on her payroll.
The yet to be identified eight players will mainly come from those who form the spine of the team with a significant number of promising youngsters in the national youth teams targeted to be gradually integrated into the senior setup.
On the playing field, competition will be different this season with the top six teams in the 12-team nationwide Premier League to go it alone in the second half of the season while the remaining six teams in the bottom half will fight it out in the nationwide Division One.
The national rugby sevens team’s somewhat poor showing in recent years also came under serious review and the union is determined to put measures in place that could see the resurgence of sevens rugby after Namibia failed to make the cut for the IRB Sevens Rugby Series last season.
To realise its desire, the NRU has in the meantime submitted a serious bid to host the African Sevens World Cup qualifier for the 2009 World Cup finals in Dubai.
Plans are at an advanced stage to engage the Namibian rugby fifteen in a two-test series against Portugal in Windhoek later this year, while the long-awaited encounter between Namibia and the Springbok second stringers has been pencilled in at a yet to be confirmed date in June 2008.
With the national schools rugby now residing under the roof of the NRU, the union has appealed to the Government and other stakeholders to seriously consider assisting rugby with the construction of basic facilities.
“Looking at our geographic demographics, there must be a lot of untapped talent somewhere in the rural areas just waiting to be unearthed but without the necessary facilities there is no way we can achieve our objectives and realize our dream of taking the game of rugby to the next level,” concluded Alexander.