Namibian rugby’s prowess in Africa over the past decade has come under threat following their defeat to Madagascar on Sunday which has made qualification for the 2015 Rugby World Cup much more difficult to attain.
Namibia has qualified for the last four Rugby World Cups in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, but qualification for 2015 will now be much more difficult following their 57-54 defeat to Madagascar on Sunday in the final of the IRB Africa Cup Division 1B competition.
With fortunes swaying to and fro throughout the match, Madagascar took an early 19-0 lead, before Namibia opened their account.
Madagascar held a sizeable 29-14 lead going into the halftime break, but Namibia came back with a vengeance in the second half.
Namibia took the lead for the first time midway through the second half and with 10 minutes remaining seemed set for victory with a 43-29 lead.
Madagascar, though, drew inspiration from their 40 000-strong supporters to score two tries and force the match into extra time. Once more Namibia edged ahead to lead 54-50 with two minutes to go, but Madagascar snatched victory with a late converted try to gain promotion to Division 1A in 2013.
Earlier, Senegal beat Morocco 26-25 in the third-place playoff of the competition.
As the Africa Cup Division 1B champions, Madagascar now gain promotion to the Africa Division 1A competition.
They will replace the bottom side in the Division 1A, which kicked off yesterday in Tunisia, with the hosts Tunisia tackling Zimbabwe and Kenya facing Uganda. The Africa Cup champion will be crowned on Saturday when the winners of these two matches meet in the final.
Madagascar’s victory against Namibia saw them shooting 14 places up on the International Rugby Board rankings, as they equalled their highest ever ranking of 42 in the world. Namibia, meanwhile, drop one position to 22 in the world.
Uruguay have now taken over at number 21, while Belgium are just behind Namibia at 23 in the world.
Namibia can still qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, although they will now have to win the Africa Division 1B next year to ensure they are part of the Division 1A competition in 2014.
The winner of this competition will qualify directly for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England while the runner up can still qualify via the repechage system in playoffs against other continental qualifiers.
Morocco, however, are out of contention for the 2015 Rugby World Cup after their 26-25 defeat to Senegal, which sees them being relegated to Division 1C in 2013, a competition which is not be part of the qualification process.
Senegal had suffered heartbreak last Wednesday when Namibia snatched a 20-18 win at the death, but this time came through a tight encounter and as a result climb two places in the IRB World Rankings to a new high of 50th.
"It is fitting that the beginning of the African journey to England 2015 should begin in a nation where rugby is the national sport," said CAR President Abdelaziz Bougja after Madagascar’s victory against Namibia.
"Forty-thousand enthralled fans packed into the Mahamasina Stadium in the nation's capital city Antananarivo to see the home side triumph over Namibia. They also saw Senegal edge out Morocco on a day when the quality of the rugby matched the passion and noise of an amazing crowd," he added.