Namibia told: 'Don't embarrass yourselves'
'You don’t make up the numbers‚ so don’t embarrass yourself‚' was the message Namibia’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad was sent into battle with before the tournament.
They gave a decent enough account of themselves for the first hour against Italy last week but their task becomes infinitely tougher on Saturday when they meet the Springboks in the so-called African Derby.
It’s a bad time to play the Boks.
They suffered their first defeat of the year against the All Blacks last week and they are now desperate to make an impression.
“It will be very tough for them‚” Namibian Rugby chief executive Mervin Green conceded.
Green‚ who has been seconded to that post as part of an initiative by World Rugby‚ held the position of general manager of strategic performance management at SA Rugby.
“World Rugby believed it was a necessity to get someone in the build-up to the RWC‚" he said.
"They believed the set-up needed to be more professionally run.
"I had to set up a professional arm for Namibia Rugby.
"I started from scratch.
"There were only the articles of association when I arrived but there is a company now.
"I got sponsors like Namibian Breweries‚ FNB‚ Air Namibia and Toyota on board.
“Now there is an office. I have recruited people from England‚ Wales and Australia to be part of the management‚” Green explained.
He took the position early last year to help prepare the Namibian team for the RWC.
From the start the challenge was real.
“Of the 31 players only 11 are professional‚” said Green.
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“The bulk of the squad hold normal jobs‚ some at Namibian Breweries‚ others at FNB. They go to their first practice at 5 in the morning. They go to work at 8.
"They are back on the practice field at 5.30 in the afternoon and the go home around 8. They have a long day.”
Green explained the first objective was to qualify for the RWC.
“We did it clean‚ not like in 2015 when Namibia had to hope that Kenya didn’t make it through. Qualifying was a great success‚” he said about the triumph in the Africa Gold Cup to seal their place.
He is enthused by the recent improvements made by the team.
“In the last month and a half there have been huge improvements‚" he said.
"In the game against Italy we were in the contest for 50‚ 60 minutes."
He believes the players will rise to the challenge in the matches against South Africa and New Zealand.
He says Torsten van Jaarsveld‚ Tjiuee Uanivi and Aranos Coetzee and Eugen Jantjies are established players but he has hope for the youngsters.
“Watch Cliven Loubser make a real impact at flyhalf‚" he said.
"There are also players like Damian Stevens and Darryl de la Harpe who are young and will develop.
“Against Italy the team stole the heart of the Japanese.
"The guys must really use this platform the RWC provides. The players can’t wait. They will play with heart and guts‚” Green promised.