Covid-19 made life difficult – Diergaardt

By Michael Uugwanga

THE men senior rugby team coach Johan Diergaardt has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has made life difficult for players despite contact sports allowed to resume under stage four of the state of emergency.

Covid-19 has brought sport in Namibia to a standstill for nearly four months and rugby is no exception.

Diergaardt is in his second stint as coach of the Welwitschias after succeeding Phil Davies who left his role after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, but is yet to start his second reign due to the pandemic.

Diergaardt  is to date the most successful national team coach after helping the team win its first  International Rugby Board (IRB) Nations Cup in 2010 in Romania and also went on to qualify Namibia to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand before he was replaced by Danie Vermeulen after the global showpiece.

In an interview with Confidente Sport, Diergaardt said he does conduct training on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Olympia in order to keep players fit and be ready once international rugby resumes.

“It is a difficult situation we are in now as only professional rugby players can afford to train and play, unlike the amateur players here. I do not really feel frustrated because I am working as head coach. We do train every Tuesday and Thursday. Players are everyday in the gym. I have about 20 to 35 players in training as they are divided in groups. Some players are afraid to come to training,” said Diergaardt.

The former coach of Western Suburbs and University of Namibia also said that the training is just to keep players fit in case World Rugby and Rugby Africa start with their activities next year.

“We are just training to improve the players where we can. We are working on getting them in good condition because they have lost lots of rugby time due to Covid-19. We are also preparing for the next four years to come,” said Diergaardt.

In England, rugby is expected to resume on August 15, while in New Zealand and Australia rugby started a few months ago with fans allowed to enter stadiums.

The Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) is not expected to start with its activities any time soon due to the pandemic concern in the country.

The absence of the local league (the Namibia Rugby Premier League) will give Diergaardt and his technical team lots of work to do on the fitness level of the players.

The Namibia Rugby Premier League was set to resume with action in March before the country went into its first lockdown later that month.