Namibia’s rugby team got their 2012 campaign off to a losing start as they lost 34-24 to South African Universities at the National Rugby Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The match served as preparation for Namibia’s opening 2015 World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar next weekend and on this performance they still have a lot of work to do.
The Namibian team, which showed several newcomers, played in fits and starts, with their team work and overall supportive play lacking while defensive lapses gave the visitors several tries on a plate.
The match had barely started before South Africa’s fullback Andre Smith skipped through two tackles to score the opening try, and with flyhalf Francois du Toit adding the conversion they lead 7-0 after only two minutes.
Namibia soon went on the attack and pressurised the visitors’ tryline but they could not turn their possession into points.
First a kick ahead by fullback Justin Nel was just too far for Chrysander Botha to touch down in the left hand corner, and then a similar kick by flyhalf Theuns Kotze was just too far for Danie Dames in the right hand corner.
Namibia kept up the pressure with Dames, Kotze and prop Collen Smith all coming close to scoring a try but South Africa’s defence held out.
Namibia finally opened their account with a penalty by Kotze but Du Toit soon added one for South Africa as the visitors took a 10-3 lead.
Namibia missed another great opportunity midway through the first half when eighthman cut through the visitors’ defence, and when he was finally brought down, Tinus du Plessis was on hand to take the move to the South African tryline.
Namibia quickly sent the second phase possession down the left wing, but Arthur Bouwer, who had just come on for the injured Roger Thompson, knocked on with the tryline beckoning.
SA Universities started the second half on the attack and soon increased their lead.
Lock Hugo Kloppers went over for a converted try after constant pressure on Namibia’s line, while fullback Andre Smith added his second try when he joined the backline to touch down in the corner, as the visitors went 22-3 ahead.
Namibia struck back and captain Tinus du Plessis went over for their first try from a rolling maul after Heinz Koll won a lineout close to the visitors tryline. Theuns Kotze added the conversion to make the score 22-10.
The students however immediately struck back with two tries in quick succession to take an unassailable 34-10 lead. First prop John Boy Jenkins powered his way over for a try, while replacement wing Divan van Zyl also touched down for a converted try after a fine counterattack by eighthman Justin Wheeler.
Namibia refused to give up and scored two tries in the final five minutes to give a bit of respectability to the scoreline.
First Chrysander Botha launched a fine counterattack from the left wing in his own half, before cutting inside and chipping the ball to the right wing where Danie Dames was first to touch down.
With a minute remaining Botha once again cut through the backline to touch down and with Theuns Kotze adding the conversion, they had reduced the gap to 34-24, but it was not enough as the visitors held on for the victory.
PJ van Lill once again had a storming match and won the Player of the Match award, while his fellow loose forwards Morne Blom and Tinus du Plessis also excelled on defense and attack.
Namibia’s forwards gave a fine account of themselves in the tight exchanges with Heinz Koll and Henk Franken doing well in the lineouts while the scrum was also solid.
Hooker Callie Swanepoel had a fine debut at hooker for Namibia, although prop Collen Smith struggled at times in the scrums.
Namibia’s backline however was a bit disappointing as they could not do much with the surfeit of possession that their forwards won.
The backline was however disrupted after the early injury to Roger Thompson while several substitutes in the second half further disrupted the flow of the game. On the whole, though, it was a promising start, and one gets the impression that the team can develop into a fine unit if they practise more together.