Namibia sounds 2007 World Cup intent
A one-point win against Morocco in the return leg this coming Saturday will now see The Welwitschias, as the Namibian team is nicknamed, return to rubbing shoulders with rugby’s elite at next year’s World Cup.
Namibia’s first half points were grabbed through a penalty kick by Emile Wessels, as well as a try by Heini Bock. Wessels converted that try to put the scoreline at 10-0 at interval.
The Moroccans were awarded a penalty, but they failed to convert.
Namibia showed signs of weakness when strongman Kees Lensing was yellow-carded. This made the Namibian team more vulnerable, as the visitors scored a try and a penalty, which give them a total of seven points.
Scrumhalf Pieter Rossouw was yellow-carded in the 57th minute for a late tackle .With the hosts reduced to 13 men, Morocco made their numerical superiority count as they were awarded a penalty try after Namibia infringed in a scrum.
However, captain Lensing returned to the fray and upped the game, resulting in their second try through Jacques Burger. Wessels again made no mistake with the conversion, which brought the score to 20-7.
In the dying minutes of the match, Namibia’s Roger Thompson tucked away another try, which was however not converted to finish the match at 25-7.
Skipper Kees Lensing said after the match that although a lot of work still needs to be done to improve the team’s performance, “the team has shown great intentions of itself having been marred by in-house fighting for the last two years. It’s a great come-back and on November 11 in Casablanca, it won’t be that difficult now.”
National coach, Johan Venter said he was looking forward to the return match where a one point win over Morocco would be enough to book Namibia’s ticket to France. “We beat Morocco in 1998 in Casablanca when I was the coach, so we can do it again,” he said.
Namibia have given themselves a great chance of reaching France as it leaves Morocco needing to win by at least 19 points to torpedo the Welwitchias. The winner over the two legs will qualify for the Rugby World Cup and join France, Ireland and Argentina in Pool D, of what might be the toughest groups of the tournament.
If Namibia makes it to France, the Welwitchias will become the second country from the region at the world cup, besides South Africa’s Springboks, who are an automatic qualifier from their participation during the RWC 2003. Other automatic qualifiers include England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, New Zealand and Australia who will all be seeded.
The qualifying victory has taken the Southern African country one place up to position 24, while the Moroccans fell two to 24 on the IRB World Rankings. The Welwitchias have a sixteen hour flight to Casablanca this Tuesday and Venter believes his tenth match with the team might give him his eighth victory at the helm of the team.
The world of Rugby will shift its attention to France from September 7, 2007 when the host nation plays Argentina at the Stade de France, Paris, in the opening match of the Tournament.