Namibia will travel to next month’s Rugby World Cup in England as champions of Africa. On Saturday, in front of close to 5000 people at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek, the hosts, sponsored by Windhoek Draught, thrashed Zimbabwe by 80 points to 6 in the final of the Africa Cup competition to retain the title they won in Madagascar last year. Inspired by the presence of Namibia’s president and Patron of the Namibia Rugby Union, Dr. Hage Geingob, the hosts recorded 12 tries, 10 of which were converted to the two penalties from Zimbabwe. Rohan Kitshoff led Namibia superbly in the absence of Jacques Burger and scored a hat-trick of tries to earn the Windhoek Draught Man of the Match Award.
The result was a far cry from the close 24-20 win by Namibia 14 months ago in Antananarivo at the Rugby World Cup Qualification Tournament. The one sided affair highlighted the benefits Namibia have reaped from having had all their players and coaching staff in camp for the last couple of weeks in their build-up to the Rugby World Cup, now just over a month to go. Namibia’s superior fitness, the result of two full time Strength and Conditioning coaches working with the players, also played a huge role in the hosts dominance over Zimbabwe as well as the week before when they hammered Kenya 46-13.
After a cautious start by both sides it was Zimbabwe’s flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya who opened the scoring with penalty in the 14 th minute, the last time Zimbabwe had any say in the match as they never threatened the well organised and vastly improved Namibian defence. Former Western Province loose-forward Kitshoff got Namibia’s account going in the 20 th minute with the first of his hat trick of tries from a rolling maul after Namibia had won a line-out close to the Zimbabwean line. Makwanya slotted a second penalty before Renaldo Bothma crashed over for Namibia’s second try. In his first start for Namibia this year, the Pumas and Sharks no. 8 proved to be handful for the visitors and his powerful runs kept the hosts on the front-foot all afternoon. The third try scored by centre JC Greyling was set up after another effective driving maul from the ever improving Namibian pack of forwards. Kitshoff’s second try, after the half-time siren had gone, came from a strong powerful scrum five meters out. Flyhalf Theuns Kotzè, who produced another outstanding performance, converted all the first half tries for a commanding 28-6 lead at the break.
The second half was one way traffic and the scoreboard operators struggled to keep up, Namibia added another eight tries as the hosts went on to record their biggest ever win over Zimbabwe in the 27 meetings between the two countries since 1992. Five minutes after the restart centre Johan Deysel added his name to the scoresheet when Kotzè sliced through the defence and sent the Leopards player away for try number 5. Kotzè also had a hand in the next try when a clever and well judged kick found winger Russell van Wyk who scored his 4 test try for Namibia. Namibia’s rolling maul proved to be unstoppable on the day, replacement prop Johnnie Redelinghuys went over for try number 7 from a line-out close to Zimbabwe’s line. Another replacement PJ van Lill scored try number 8 from a strong scrum before Kitshoff completed his hat-trick in the 70 th minute, again the result of the driving maul. Van Wyk got his second of the afternoon, loose-forward Tinus du Plessis was rewarded for an excellent performance with a try before prop Redelinghuys also scored his second try of the match to cap a memorable performance for Namibia.
The match was Namibia’s last before they travel to London next month. Namibian captain Rohan Kitshoff was satisfied with the performance but said the team still had some work to do. “ We are about at 80 percent of where we would want to be, the four test matches against Russia, Kenya and Zimbabwe have helped a great deal with our preparations but we know that we still have a great deal of work to put in before we leave for the Rugby World Cup.”
According to Head Coach Phil Davies, this was Namibia’s best performance since returning from the Nations Cup last month. “ I think of all the games we played this was the most accomplished performance we have produced so far especially in terms of working through our processes. We lacked a bit of patience in the first half but rectified that at half-time and to come out and score 42 points in the second half was really pleasing.”
Davies added that Namibia had made a lot of progress since their match against Zimbabwe in June last year. “ It is important that we progress now, it is important that we progress at the World Cup but it is even more important that we progress after the World Cup and keep the momentum going. It is a real opportunity for Namibia to establish itself as a top rugby playing nation in the next 4 to 5 years, we are now in the top 20 and we need to keep on pushing and building,” said Davies.
Namibia will continue with their preparations at home before traveling to South Africa at the end of a month for a 4-day training camp in Durban.
Namibia - Tries: Kitshoff(3), van Wyk(2), Redelinghuys(2), Bothma, du Plessis, Greyling, Deysel & PJ van Lill.
Conversions : Kotzè (10)
Zimbabwe - Penalties: Makwanya (2)