No need to panic – experts after Welwitschias loss

By Michael Uugwanga

IT was an unexpected result this past Saturday when the Welwitschias were defeated in Abidjan by Ivory Coast in the opening round of the Rugby Africa Cup, which is part of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying process; raising some eyebrows after the defeat.

The Welwitschias have a new coach in South African born-trainer Allister Coetzee, who previously coached the South African national team from April 2016 to February 2018.

Namibia was brought down to earth by an Ivorian side that has not even been in the top division of African rugby for over a decade, beating perennial Rugby World Cup (RWC) qualifiers Namibia 24-13 in Abidjan.

The team was without most players that play professional rugby abroad, notably Johan Deysel, Tjiuee Uanivi, Janco Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Wian Conradie, Cliven Loubser, Damien Stevens and Aranos Coetzee, and as a result they were punished by the Ivorians.

The Welwitschias must win their second fixture to keep alive their hopes of making it to France 2023. They were due to play their second match against Madagascar last night in Abidjan.

Former backline coach of the Welwitschias, Roger Thompson said even though the result against Ivory Coast was not expected it is evidence that rugby is growing in Africa.

“The loss against Ivory Coast was not expected however it is evident that none of the African nations competing to qualify can be underestimated. I believe our kicking game needs to improve against Madagascar as they feast on turnover possession and we need to be a lot more patient with ball in hand bringing our forwards into the game. We just could not get it to function well as we were inactive as a national team group for more than 18 months. No need to panic yet because I am confident that we will get the desired result,” said Thompson.

Current U-20 men’s coach and former Welwitschias great, Jood Opperman said that people should not use Covid-19 as a scapegoat for the defeat but rather improve on the field of play.

Opperman however said that he is speechless after the defeat and is hoping for a better result in the next match.

“We must put in consideration that other African nations are now competitive. My concern against Ivory Coast was that we were losing the balls so cheaply. We need to start playing a little more wide. Maybe we went a little bit down after the World Cup as we did not play matches. Also the absence of the local league due to Covid-19 but the other nations did also not play rugby due to Covid-19. However, no need to panic for now,” he said.

This year’s Rugby Africa Cup sees 12 teams split into four pools and the top two sides in each pool will move into next year’s tournament.

Rugby Africa Cup 2022 has a knockout format – quarter-finals, semi-finals and final – and will determine the Africa qualifier for the next World Cup.

The winner of that final in 2022 will go through to RWC 2023 as Africa One and join Pool A with New Zealand, France, Italy and Americas One. The runner-up will move into the final qualification tournament.

Namibia is in pool A alongside Ivory Coast and Madagascar.

Namibia has been at the last six consecutive World Cups in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 and are the second ranked team in Africa behind world champions, the Springboks of South Africa.

In the world Namibia is ranked 24.