Namibia produced one of their best performances in years despite losing 17-13 to Canada at Eirias Parc, Colwyn Bay in Northern Wales on Friday evening. The match was Namibia’s first on their Northern Hemisphere tour. Led by Saracens loose-forward Jacques Burger, the Namibians started very well but let themselves down by conceding early penalties.
The North Americans took the lead as early as the sixth minute through scrumhalf Gordon McRorie after the Welwitchias were judged off-side by South African referee Stuart Berry. Three minutes later the Southern Africans suffered a major setback when their England-based fullback Chrysander Botha was stretchered off and taken to hospital with a broken left leg. After a delay of almost nine minutes during which Botha received treatment, Namibia conceded a second penalty, this time it was loose-forward Rohan Kitshoff penalised for not releasing the ball.
McRorie stepped up and made it 6-0 to Canada. It took the Africans 25 minutes to get on the board when fly half Theuns Kotze slotted a 25 metre penalty after Canada was caught slowing down the ball. Ten minutes before the break Canada extended their lead to 9-3 with Namibia again guilty of a transgression at the breakdown.
McRorie was on target to make it 9-3. Kotzé responded immediately with his second penalty of the evening. With the score at 9-6 the match was evenly poised but just before half-time the momentum swung in the Canadians’ favour when Berry gave Kitshoff a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. The Namibians did well to hang on despite their numerical disadvantage and the sides changed ends with Canada leading 9-6.
Canada started well and with Namibia still a player short, extended their lead to 12-6 through a fourth penalty from McRorie just minutes into the second half. Kotzé then missed an easy chance to close the gap to three points again. It was a costly mistake as Canada opened up an 11 point lead after loose-forward Nanyak Dala went over in the corner for his side’s only try of the match.
The remaining 25 minutes of the second half was dominated by the Namibians who held the upper hand in the set phases. Brive’s Tjiuee Uanive, only in his second test match, was superb in the line-outs and showed that he has a bright future in international rugby while the front row of veteran Johnnie Redelinghuys, newcomer Torsten Van Jaarsveld and tight head André Schlechter had the ascendency in the scrums. Namibia won the physical battle and grew in confidence as the match entered its final quarter.
While superb in defence Namibia also battled to breach the Canadian defence and it was only in the last ten minutes that the North American side started looking vulnerable. With five minutes remaining captain Jacques Burger scored after a well executed line-out drive. Kotzé slotted the conversion which gave Namibia a chance of pulling off a win against a side ranked higher than they are on the IRB rankings.
A last minute attack almost resulted in what would have been a match winning try but the final pass went astray. The final score 17-13. Namibian coach Danie Vermeulen struggled to hide his disappointment afterwards saying, “ I think there was nothing wrong with the effort from the boys, a few unforced errors, maybe a few wrong decisions by us, here and there a player lacking a bit of experience, and I think that cost us the game.”
Burger who played his first test match for Namibia since September 2011 echoed the sentiments of his coach saying, “ I am proud of the boys, they showed a lot of heart. We didn’t have a lot of time together, we made a lot of mistakes especially our discipline but there’s a lot to take from this match and we can really look forward to a positive future.” Burger will not travel to France with the team on Saturday as he will be returning to Saracens. Namibia’s next match is on Friday the 14th of November in Toulon against the French Barbarians.