NRU misses out on relief fund

By Michael Uugwanga

THE Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) have just missed out on a golden opportunity to capitalise on World Rugby’s N$1.8 billion relief fund after the union was too hesitant to offer professional contracts to players which could have resulted in Namibia benefiting from the relief fund.

According to World Rugby, the relief fund is for unions that require immediate emergency funding, subject to the appropriate criteria being met, such as including players contracted by their respective unions to professional leagues.

NRU has in the past contracted players to the Welwitschias squad that participates in South African club competitions, such as the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and the Currie Cup, in which the Welwitschias are regular participants. Had the union contracted the players before the lockdown the NRU could have been one of the recipients of financial relief.

“The N$1.8 billion relief fund is only for unions that have professional leagues or have players contracted to their respective unions. We currently do not have players contracted to NRU. We normally give contracts to players when we are going to play in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and the Currie Cup competitions.

“We were planning to give contracts to players but we could not do that due to [the outbreak of] Covid-19. We do have something in place for our local players but I cannot elaborate on it because at the end of the day it might end up being a false promise, but we are trying to see how best we can assist our local players,” said NRU president Corry Mensah in an interview with Confidente Sport Desk.

The Welwitschias were set to tour East Asia for a number of test matches but by the look of things that tour is not likely to take place.

Namibia was set to play against Japan, Hong Kong, China, Tonga and other fellow tier-two rugby playing nations.

The Asia tour would have been a good opportunity for Namibia to improve its world ranking after it went down to 24th place in the world due to lack of competitive matches.

“The (Asia) tour seems not to be taking place this year due to Covid-19.  We are kind of stuck in this situation as World Rugby have come up with a new competition that can help lower ranked teams improve in their ranking through such a competition.

“You look at a country like Russia, who plays in European competition and are really benefiting from it – that is why they are [more] highly ranked than us. Even if we play in the Rugby Africa Cup, it will not help us in the ranking as we are playing against lower ranked countries,” said Mensah.

Johan Diergaardt, who is yet to start in his job as Welwitschias coach, continues to receive his salary as he was given a contract that will run until 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. “Yes, he is still being paid. He has a contract that will run until 2023,” Mensah said.

Diergaardt was appointed coach in March, following the expiry of former coach Phil Davies’ contract last year.