By Carlos Kambaekwa
The same old faces, but this time around, the smiles on the faces of Namibia’s Under-20 rugby squad were nowhere to be found when last night the clearly leg-weary youngsters touched down at Hosea Kutako International Airport, east of Windhoek.
The Namibians had returned from their two-week long International Rugby Board Under-20 Junior World Rugby Trophy challenge in the Chilean capital, Santiago.
The young Namibians acquitted themselves well under trying conditions and managed to win two out of their four matches after a slow start to their campaign, that saw them biting the dust against Romania (28-26) and hosts Chile (20-6) in their opening matches.
Nevertheless, the youngsters dusted themselves off after the setback and went on to beat the strong Cook Islands and Korea in their last two matches to finish in overall 5th place.
“I’m not the kind of person who likes to talk about match officials but honestly speaking, the standard of refereeing at the tournament left a bitter taste in the mouth,” said the clearly irritated coach of the Namibian team Eden Meyer.
The former Namibian winger believes the International Rugby Board short-changed the participating teams with its decision to appoint “development referees” for a tournament of such magnitude.
“We were by far the best team in the tournament but the referees have a different interpretation of rules and to compound matters, an Argentinean referee living in Chile was in charge of our match against the hosts, so you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
Meyer was however upbeat about the team’s overall performance and strongly believes if kept together, the youngsters could develop into a formidable outfit in the not too distant future.
Ten players from the squad are still under the ages of 19, which make them eligible for the forthcoming Under-19 Africa Cup in Tunisia, while eight others have been earmarked for promotion to the Senior National Rugby Fifteen.
Uruguay won the tournament to move up the ranks and the South Americans will now compete in the A Division of the Junior World Cup finals, next year.
Apart from Namibia and hosts Chile, six other nations competed in the two-week long youth tournament: they are Cook Islands, Georgia, Jamaica, Korea, Romania and Uruguay.