23 Sep 2015

Namibia dare to dream against All Blacks

3:42 pm on 23 September 2015

There is something refreshing about the Namibia rugby team, an amateur-based side in a professional era.

Namibia rugby team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Photo: AFP

As the rank outsiders in the World Cup they know they do not stand a chance against the top-ranked All Blacks at London's Olympic Stadium this week, but still they dare to dream their old-school values will do them proud.

While the All Blacks are global stars - with almost as many support staff as players to ensure they eat, train, rest to maximum benefit - most of the plucky Namibians have to juggle their rugby with full-time jobs.

"We've got engineers, diamond traders, farmers, construction workers, and a dentist which is handy," said captain Jacques Burger, the Saracens loose forward who is one of the few overseas-based professionals in the side.

"It's definitely about these guys who work eight to five, they've offered up so much. They are incredible.

"They wake up four, five in the morning, start training at six, have to to go to work all day and come back in the evening, six to half seven, which is so challenging.

Rough diamond humans

"I'm massively impressed with what they put in and the level they perform at. They're not just good rugby players but good human beings."

Namibian President Hage Geingob had a dream that the pride of the southern African nation would "give the All Blacks hell".

He sent the team off with the message: "Please go and fulfil my dream."

Realistically, the target for Namibia will be damage control given the short five-day turn around before playing Tonga, a team they have in their sights along with Georgia, in the hunt for a historic first win in five World Cups.

All Black halfback Aaron Smith goes over to score his try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup match between New Zealand and Argentina.

All Black halfback Aaron Smith goes over to score his try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup match between New Zealand and Argentina. Photo: Getty Images

Their worst World Cup performance was a nightmarish 142-0 thrashing by Australia in 2003 but coach Phil Davies said those bumbling days are long gone.

They may not match the All Blacks but they go into the tournament on the back of beating Russia twice and demolishing Zimbabwe 80-6.

"I think we've created a clear way of playing which suits the Namibian style of rugby," the former Welsh international said.

"The evidence so far in our previous four games is that we look structured and organised but there's an ability also for the players to use their flair and counter-attacking ability, which is what Namibian rugby is famous for."

Davies, who took over the reins in July when Danie Vermeulen suddenly quit, has been impressed with the tenacious spirit of his amateurs.

"The players' commitment has been extraordinary. We've done nearly 40 training sessions at 5:00am in the morning at the National Stadium, which is amazing. It's a new experience for me."

Burger, who is playing in his third World Cup and was named as one of the top five players in New Zealand four years ago, said while his side may not fulfil Geingob's dream they will not disgrace themselves.

"The All Blacks at the Olympic Stadium is incredible for Namibian rugby. A lot of our guys are amateurs and look up to these guys as idols," he said.


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