Welwitschias 1999 W/C team: Where are they now?

• BBy Michael Uugwanga

IN October this year, the country’s men senior rugby side, the Welwitschias will be marking its 23rd anniversary, following its first Rugby World Cup appearance in France in 1999.

Namibia was in pool C alongside host nation France, Canada and Fiji, but failed to win a single match.

However, the players have alluded that their 47-13 loss to France was their best match.

This week, Confidente Sport managed to get hold of some of the players that were part of the famous dream team as they shared their memorable moments and what they have been up to since retiring from international rugby.

The World Cup team was coached by Rudy Joubert, who had previously been the technical adviser for the 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks.

Quinn Hough (49) was the captain of the team and was one of the pillars during Namibia’s 1999 Vodacom cup campaign.

“We opened doors for the current players. The atmosphere in the stadium against France was unbelievable. I was captain since 1995 till after the World Cup,” he explained.

He is currently a farmer in Gobabis.

Francois van Rensburg (48) played centre and fly-half and was the most experienced player at the time with over 65 games including 16 matches in the 1995 Currie Cup and was also vice-captain of the team.

Afterwards he played professional rugby for Harlequins in England and is now a farmer.

“I was convinced by Johan (Venter) to come back as they needed my experience. No doubt the game against France was the best.

“Currently I am part-time rugby commentator for Afrikaans radio station,” said van Rensburg.

Dirk Farmer (48) who played as a wing was 25 at the time.

“It was a good feeling because at the time we did not have the experience.  I only played against Fiji because the coach wanted to give others a chance to play. The match against France was the best because we were leading them before half-time.

“These days I am mostly at the farm,” he said.

Johan Zaayman (49) was a top Sevens rugby player, having played in the World Cup Sevens in 1997 and at the Air France Sevens in 1996.

“There was lots of excitement and disbelief when we qualified since it was our first time.

“I have been coach of Windhoek Afrikaans Private School since 2019.”

Eben Izaacs (52) had played six test matches before scoring three tries.

“It was a lifetime opportunity to play at the World Cup. It was a great feeling for a country like ours with such a small population. The match against France was the standout match for us.

“I am currently running my own business in auto parts and supply items to mines,” said Izaacs who is father to University of Namibia (UNAM) rugby club captain Alcino Izaacs, who captained UNAM to last season’s Namibia Rugby Premier League title

Cliff ‘Rock’ Loubser (49) is father to current Welwitschias player Cliven Loubser who was at the 2019 World Cup.

“It was great to be part of the Namibian team that qualified to its first World Cup. Playing against France was amazing because they were a top team and went on to play in the final,” said Loubser.

Deon Mouton (46) was the youngest at 23 and had played only one match for Namibia at the time.

“I am very proud to have played for Namibia. I played only against Fiji and got injured, that is why I did not play the other two remaining matches. France match was the best.

“I retired from rugby in 2017 at Reho Falcons in Rehoboth.”

Mouton is currently a salesperson for a motor company in Windhoek.

Ronaldo Pedro (50), a scrumhalf was one of the senior players in the team but had only four caps to his name at the time.

“It was a great feeling because it was like a dream come true for me. The France game of course was the best.”

He now works as an environmental health practitioner and last played club rugby in 2020 at Reho Falcon.

Gerhard ‘Jood’ Opperman (54) was the senior player in the team, besides having only played one test match prior.

“I do not think that the achievement of ours can be compared to anything … I do not think that the current Welwitschias side will beat us.”

Opperman has always been a bodybuilder, having represented Namibia at the 1994 World body building championships.

He previously coached Trustco United rugby club, leading them to the Namibia Rugby Premier League in 2014.

Eben Smith (51) one of the senior members said: “It is a feeling that it is difficult to explain to anyone. We were all in tears when we were singing the national anthem.”

Smith is a building contractor.

Below are the rest of the other players that were part of the Welwitschias World Cup campaign.

*Lean van Dyk (46) played 10 times for Namibia and was also part of the Northern Free State provincial team in South Africa in the Vodacom Cup.

*Rudie van Vuuren (49) a medical doctor.

*Lukas Holtzhausen (49) a farmer in Otjiwarongo district.

*Riaan Jantjies (57) worked for Namibia Breweries Limited.

*Sarel Jansen van Rensburg (45) works in the meat industry.

*Sybrand de Beer (47) is a former CEO of Namibia Rugby Union.

*Arthur Samuelson (48) works at APS.

*Jaco Olivier (47) is a butcher.

*Schalke van der Merwe (48) is a farmer.

*Herman Lintvelt (46) works at AGRA Namibia.

*Heino Senekal (46) is in the petrol service station business in Olympia.

*Pieters Steyn (48) is a farmer.

*Johannes Theron (43) is an architect based in South Africa.

*Mario Jacobs (50) works at Plastic Packaging.

*Andries Blaauw (52) self-employed.

*Hugo Horn (45) works at Plastic Packaging.

*Sean Furter (45) works at Namibia Plastic factory.

*Frans Fisch (late)

*Matthys van Rooyen (late)

*Glovin van Wyk (late)

After the 1999 World Cup qualifications, Namibia went on to qualify to five straight World Cup appearances, with the last qualification being in Japan in 2019.