Saracens loose-forward Jacques Burger will captain Namibia in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in England and will lead a squad where 14 of the 31 players selected have previous Rugby World Cup experience. The squad was named in Windhoek on Thursday following a four day training camp held in Durban, South Africa. Burger is among four members of the squad that will be appearing in their third Rugby World Cup, with prop Johnnie Redelinghuys, loose-forward Tinus Du Plessis and scrum-half Eugene Jantjies also part of the Namibian teams that participated in France 2007 and New Zealand 2011.
Redelinghuys is his country’s highest-capped player of all time with 46 test matches to his credit. Nine players, Raoul Larson, Rohan Kitshoff, PJ van Lill, Theuns Kotzè, Darryl De La Harpe, Danie Van Wyk, Conrad Marais, David Philander and Chrysander Botha also did duty in New Zealand in 2011. Another feature of the squad is the inclusion of three players under the age of 21 in hooker Louis Van Der Westhuizen, flank Wian Conradie and scrum-half Damian Stevens. The squad has an average of almost twenty test matches per player and an average age of just over 26.
Welwitschias Head Coach Phil Davies says the squad has a good combination of good experienced players mixed with youthful exuberance: ‘There’s a lot of things you have to consider when making a selection like this, the dynamics of the group is very important and I think we have a number of young, but inexperienced players whose exuberance is rubbing off on the more experienced players. I think it is the strongest group of players who we could have picked to select Namibia at the Rugby World Cup. There’s some good versatility and a big number of players are in good form as we showed recently when we won four test matches and moved up to number 20 on the world rankings.’ Davies admitted that it was very difficult to make the final selection as Namibia had developed depth in some positions over the last couple of months: ‘It was tough, we have good depth in the midfield, lots of talent in the back three, and also in our back-row. We do have some world class players in Jacques Burger and Renaldo Bothma amongst others, but in some areas where we lack a bit of depth. We are looking at developing some young players for the future in those positions.’
Namibia faces defending Rugby World Cup champions New Zealand on September 24th, followed by Pool C matches against Georgia, Tonga and Argentina – all teams ranked in the top 15 and above the Namibians in 20th spot on World Rugby’s latest rankings. Davies says: ‘I feel the players that have put their hand up have been rewarded with selection. There’s a lot of courage and character and we will be doing everything to get that first ever elusive win at a Rugby World Cup. I am pleased with the dynamics of the players who are based in Namibia and those who play professionally. We couldn’t ask for a group that is more together, a more committed group.’
Namibia Rugby’s General Manager: Rugby, John Williams, said he was hugely excited by the inclusion of Conradie, Stevens and Van Der Westhuizen, three players who did duty for the Welwitscias at the Junior World Trophy in the last two years. He says: ‘What is important is that they were selected on merit and that is very good in terms of our future and for our legacy program, it is very exciting to see these young players as it shows our structures are working and that bodes well for our future.’ The Namibian team returned to Windhoek on Thursday after a hugely successful training camp in Durban that included three joint training sessions with the Springboks.
Namibia Rugby World Cup Squad: (Number of caps and clubs in brackets)
Props: Johannes Coetzee (4 – Brive, France), AJ de Klerk (5 – University of Stellenbosch, South Africa) Jaco Engels (12 – United, Namibia), Raoul Larson (6 – SWD Eagles, South Africa), Johnnie Redelinghuys (46 – Wanderers, Namibia), Casper Viviers (12 – Saint Nazaire, France).
Hookers: Louis van der Westhuizen (2 – Leopards, South Africa), Torsten van Jaarsveld (7 – Free State Cheetahs, South Africa)
Locks: Janco Venter (8 – University of Stellenbosch, South Africa), Tjiuee Uanivi (10 – Brive, France)
Loose-Forwards: Renaldo Bothma (7 – Sharks & Pumas, South Africa), Jacques Burger (33 – Saracens, England), Wian Conradie (1 – University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Leneve Damens (3 – Wanderers, Namibia), Tinus du Plessis (43 – Wanderers, Namibia), Rohan Kitshoff (22 – Durbell, South Africa), PJ van Lill (38 – Dax, France)
Scrum-halves: Eneill Buitendag (13 – Wanderers, Namibia), Eugene Jantjies (43 – Farul Constanta, Romania), Damien Stevens (1 – University of Western Cape, South Africa)
Flyhalf: Theuns Kotzè (25 – Bourg-en-Bresse, France)
Centres: Darryl de La Harpe (27 – Western Suburbs, Namibia), Johan Deysel (8 – Leopards, South Africa), JC Greyling (7 – United, Namibia), Danie van Wyk (13 – United, Namibia)
Wings: Conrad Marais (7 – Beziers, France), David Philander (24 – Spotswood United, New Zealand), Heinrich Smith (10 – Leopards, South Africa), Russell van Wyk (4 – Western Suburbs, Namibia)
Fullbacks: Chrysander Botha (33 – Exeter Chiefs, England) & Johan Tromp (18 – Wanderers, Namibia