Namibia qualified for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France after convincingly beating Morroco 52-15 on aggregate, home and away over the past month.
Namibia won the first leg encounter 25-7 in Windhoek on October 28, and then put in a superb performance to beat Morocco 27-8 in Casablanca on November 11.
In the process Namibiaâ??s rugby team created history by becoming the first Namibian team to qualify for three successive World Cup finals, after they previously appeared at the 1999 World Cup in England and the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
Namibia will now play in Pool D at next yearâ??s World Cup, along with the hosts France, Argentina, Ireland and most probably, Georgia, who still have to qualify.
Namibiaâ??s opening match will be against Ireland in Bordeaux on September 9, while they take on France in Toulouse on September 16. Namibia then play Argentina in Marseille on September 22, while their final match is against Georgia in Lens on September 26.
Superb display in Casablanca
After holding an 18-point advantage following the first leg encounter, Namibia gave a superbly disciplined and defensive display in Casablanca against a fiery and physical Morocco, who did everything they could to disrupt Namibia with foul play.
Towards the end of the first half Moroccan hooker and captain Jalil Narjissi plunged into a loose maul punching wildly to start a free for all, but when matters had calmed down, the referee inexplicably awarded a penalty to Morocco. Garcia missed the kick and Narjissiâ??s luck finally ran out when he was sent off the field after a dangerous high tackle on Namibian eighthman Jacques Burger.
At that stage the teams were still level at 3-all, but with Morocco a man down, the match finally swung Namibiaâ??s way and flanker Herman Lintvelt barged over for the first try, converted by Emile Wessels just before halftime.
Namibia turned on the pace with wing Melrick Africa going over for a try two minutes into the second half, while fullback Heini Bock outpaced the Moroccan defence for a great individual try in the 65th minute. With ten minutes remaining, Africa put the issue beyond doubt when he broke through the Moroccan defence and unloaded to substitute back Eugene Jantjies to score behind the posts.
Wessels added the conversion and although Morocco got a late try, it was too little too late and Namibia held on for a fine victory, which was applauded by the home crowd.
A bloodied, but unbowed Namibian team received a heroes welcome when it arrived at Hosea Kutako International Airport on November 13. Nearly all the players bore marks and scars of the tough battle on their bodies, with centre Corne Powell and eighthman Jacques Burger sporting black eyes, while flankers Herman Lintvelt and Schalk van der Merwe each had broken noses.
The teamâ??s official sponsor, MTC organised a welcoming home party at the airport, while the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) president Dirk Conradie vowed to leave no stone unturned to assist the Namibian team in its preparations for the World Cup.
â??Kees, you have my number. Call me if there is anything you need,â? he told team captain Kees Lensing.
Conradie added that the NRU would call in experts from around the world to help Namibia prepare for the World Cup.
Experts for both backs and forwards will be brought in, while dieticians and fitness trainers will also be employed to help prepare the team for the World Cup.
Conradie told Namibia Sport that he was extremely proud of the team which had qualified for the World Cup against all the odds.
â??Iâ??m as happy as the whole Namibian nation. It was a very physical game, but Namibia controlled all facets of play. We did extremely well and scored some great tries, but the referee was seriously biased,â? he said.
â??This is the third time in a row that Namibia has qualified for the World Cup and once again we achieved it against all the odds.
â??Everyone has been complaining about the bad administration in rugby and the lack of funds, but still we managed to be successful,â? he added.
Conradie told Namibia Sport that MTC had agreed to sponsor the national team to an amount of N$2 million for the next year, of which N$800 000 will go towards the national teamâ??s preparations.
Venterâ??s days numbered?
Meanwhile, Conradie told Namibia Sport that they were considering appointing a new coach now that Namibia had qualified for the World Cup.
If true, it will be a big blow for Johan Venter who has now taken Namibia to the World Cup for the second time.
He was first successful in 1998 when Namibia also beat Morocco in Casablanca, 18-7 to qualify for the 1999 World Cup in England. He was, however, soon replaced by Rudi Joubert of South Africa, and according to Conradie, Venter might have to once again step down.
â??We will discuss the issue of the coach soon. Some of the senior players feel that the current coach Johan Venter has reached his top and that he canâ??t do much more for the team. There is still a lot of room for improvement, so we might consider appointing a professional coach and keeping Venter on as a technical assistant,â? he said.
â??Peet Kleynhans the former Free State coach who helped Namibia prepare for the second leg, pointed out serious shortcomings in our gameplan and we improved a lot on that.
The president of the SA Rugby Association, Oregon Hoskins said that South Africa will assist Namibia for the World Cup, and I hope that someone like Rassie Erasmus could play a role in our plans,â? Conradie added.
Namibia beat Morocco 25-7
On October 28, Namibia beat Morocco 25-7 in a tough and uncompromising battle to take a crucial 18-point lead to Casablanca.
Indiscipline cost Namibia dearly as they had scrumhalf Pieter Rossouw and captain and prop Kees Lensing yellow carded in the second half for foul play. With Namibia reduced to 13 men, Morocco made their numerical superiority count as they were awarded a penalty try after Namibia infringed in a scrum. At that stage Namibia held a narrow 13-7 lead but they made a great comeback to score two fine tries in the final 10 minutes.
The first half saw few chances as most of the action took place in an uncompromising battle amongst the forwards.
Flyhalf Emile Wessels put Namibia 3-0 ahead with a penalty, but Moroccan flyhalf Thomas Garcia soon equalised with another penalty.
Namibia finally broke through Moroccoâ??s defence with a spectacular try just before halftime. Centre Luwayne Botes picked up a loose ball in the backline and sent wing Guillaume Nel away who in turn fed a flying Heini Bock down the touchline. Bock managed to beat Morroccoâ??s cover defence to score and Wesselsâ?? fine conversion gave Namibia a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Namibia down to 13 men
Wessels put Namibia 13-0 ahead with a penalty in the 47th minute, but the home sideâ??s fortunes took a dive when Rossouw and Lensing were yellow carded in short succession.
During this time Morocco continued to pound away at Namibiaâ??s defence with impressive rolling mauls and they were finally awarded a penalty try after a scrum infringement by Namibia. With Garcia adding the conversion, Morocco were right back in the game at 13-7.
But Namibia came back with two great tries in the final ten minutes.
First eighthman Jacques Burger popped up in the backline to break Moroccoâ??s defence with a searing dive over the tryline, and then centre Roger Thompson followed up a chip ahead and beat the defence with a fine sidestep to score in the corner. With Wessels converting Burgerâ??s try Namibia ran out 25-7 winners.