The World Cup-bound Namibian Rugby Fifteen ended their preparations for the global showpiece in superb style over the past weekend.
The Welwitschias – as the Namibian senior rugby team is affectionately known amongst its ardent fans – will travel to next month’s International Rugby Board (IRB) World Cup in England as the undisputed champions of Africa, following an emphatic 80-6 triumph over a hapless Zimbabwe at the Hage Geingob stadium on Saturday.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd of close to 5000, the much-improved hosts had little trouble in seeing off Zimbabwe in a one-sided encounter to retain the Windhoek Draught African Cup.
Inspired by the ever-present Namibian Head of State and patron of the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU), Dr Hage Geingob, Namibia went on the rampage, visiting the visitors’ touchline on no less than 12 occasions, ensuring that ten of the tries were goaled.
The visitors were clearly outmanoevred and outplayed in almost all facets of the game, as can be attested by the astonishing score line. For all their efforts, Zimbabwe could only manage two penalties for a paltry score of six.
In the absence of Jacques Burger, stand-in captain Rohan Kitshoff led Namibia superbly, capping a wonderful afternoon with a hat-trick of tries, following which he was deservedly voted the Windhoek Draught Man of the Match Award.
Saturday’s resounding victory was a far cry from the narrow 24-20 win recorded by Namibia against Zimbabwe 14 months ago in Antananarivo at the IRB World Cup Qualification in Madagascar.
Namibia’s near faultless display highlights the benefits the country is reaping from having summoned all their players and coaching staff to a training camp over the last couple of weeks in the build-up to the IRB World Cup.
Superior fitness proved to be the difference between the two nations and this can be attributed to the presence of two full time strength-and-conditioning coaches working with the players.
After a cautious start by both sides, it was the visitors’ fly half, Tichafara Makwanya, who broke the deadlock via a penalty kick in the 14th minute. That was to be the last Zimbabwe would have any further interest in the match, as they never threatened the well-oiled and vastly improved Namibian rearguard.
With 20 minutes gone on the clock, former Western Province loose-forward Kitshoff started the riot for the hosts from a rolling maul after Namibia had won a lineout close to the Zimbabwean line.
Makwanya reduced the deficit with his second penalty (7-6) before Renaldo Bothma crashed over for Namibia’s second try. The third try was scored by centre JC Greyling, following another effective driving maul from the Namibian pack of forwards.
Kitshoff’s dotted down for his second try of the match just after the half-time siren had gone. Fly half Theuns Kotzè’s educated boot duly obliged from all conversions in the opening half to give the hosts a commanding lead of 28-6 at the break.
It was one-way traffic as the fired-up Namibians kept the scoreboard operators struggling to keep up with the point scoring rate. Namibia added another eight tries to record their biggest ever win over Zimbabwe in the 27 outings since 1992.
Five minutes after the restart, centre Johan Deysel added his name to the scoresheet when Kotzè sliced through the defence to send the Leopards player away for try number five. Kotzè also had a hand in the following try when a cleverly executed kick found winger Russell van Wyk, who grounded his fourth test try for Namibia.
Substitute prop Johnnie Redelinghuys went over for try number 7, while fellow replacement PJ van Lill register his name on the score sheet with try number eight, leaving Kitshoff to complete his hat-trick in the 70th minute.
Van Wyk got his second of the afternoon, while loose-forward Tinus du Plessis was rewarded for an excellent showing with a try before prop Redelinghuys added to the tally for his second try of the match to cap a memorable performance for Namibia.
Namibia – Tries: Kitshoff (3), van Wyk (2), Redelinghuys (2), Bothma, du Plessis, Greyling, Deysel & PJ van Lill. Conversions: Kotzè (2)
Zimbabwe – Penalties: Makwanya (2).