THE Namibian rugby selectors have named a young and inexperienced squad of 26 players for the upcoming Windhoek Lager Tri-Nations Rugby tournament, which kicks off on Saturday when Namibia take on Zimbabwe.
Spain will also compete in the tournament, taking on Zimbabwe on Wednesday, November 14 and Namibia on Saturday, November 17.
The Namibian team will be captained by experienced eighthman PJ van Lill for their opening match against Zimbabwe on Saturday, but only includes eight players who represented Namibia at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
The starting 15 for Saturday’s match have a combined total of 84 test caps at an average of only 5,6 per player.
Namibia is especially inexperienced among the forwards with only Van Lill, prop Johnny Redelinghuys and flanker Renaud van Neel remaining from the World Cup.
Top forwards like Jacques Burger, Rohan Kitshoff and Morné Blom were not available due to injury or club commitments, while Namibia suffered a further setback when experienced lock Nico Esterhuizen got injured during training.
With World Cup lock Heinz Koll having retired, Namibia will be especially inexperienced in this position and Muno Kasiringua of Unam and Stefan Neustadt of United will both be making their debut for Namibia on Saturday.
Other newcomers among the forwards are Western Suburbs hooker Rathony Becker and André Schlechter who represented EP Kings in the Vodacom Cup this year, while Western Suburbs lock Mune Tjiueza has been selected at flank.
The backline has more experience and includes World Cup players like Eugene Jantjies, Theuns Kotze, Chrysander Botha, Darryl de la Harpe and Danie van Wyk.
The Pumas Under-21 winger Johan Tromp will make his debut at right wing for Namibia, while other newcomers on the substitutes bench include Under-19 hooker Hannes Dursuwei, Western Province U21 flanker Stef Botha and Western Suburbs flanker Victor Rodrigues.
“This is the strongest possible group we could select, because we want to give our best performance at this tournament and measure ourselves against the 2012 African champions Zimbabwe, and Spain who are ranked 20th in the world. This will give us a very good indication of where we are currently and what we need to focus on for the next eight months to ensure that we win the CAR 1B tournament in July 2013,” said the CEO of the Namibia Rugby Union, Sybrand de Beer.
De Beer added that the Namibian team has been helped by top South African coaches Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, especially with regard to defence, breakdown and analyses fine tuning. In addition to them, Willie Maree, who was the video analyst that was on Jake White’s technical team in 2007 when they won the World Cup, will also be present for the tournament and will record and code all three the matches.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean Sables arrived in Namibia yesterday after their participation had earlier been in doubt. According to reports from Zimbabwe, the players went on strike last week over allowances, while the Zimbabwe Rugby Union has also been struggling with a lack of funds. The International Rugby Board however came to the rescue this week when it announced that it would pay for the travel and accommodation of the Zimbabwean team.
The Namibian team for Saturday’s match, which starts at 16h00 at the Hage Geingob National Rugby Stadium, is as follows:
Johnny Redelinghuys, Rathony Bekker, Andre Schlechter, Muinjo Kasaringwa, Stefan Neustadt, Renaud van Neel, Munee Tjuiza, PJ Van Lill (captain), Eugene Jantjies, Theuns Kotze, Chrysander Botha, Darryl de la Harpe (vice captain), Danie van Wyk, Johan Tromp and Justin Nel.
Collen Smith, Hannes Dursewei, Stef Botha, Victor Rodrigues, Arthur Bouwer, Sergio de la Harpe and Desmond Snyders.