THE Welwitschias open their campaign in the inaugural Supersport Rugby Challenge with a tough away match when they take on the Falcons in Kempton Park on Saturday afternoon.
In last year's Currie Cup First Division campaign, the Falcons fared quite well, reaching the semifinals before losing 40-30 to the Leopards.
In their only pool match against the Welwitschias they were also comfortable victors, winning the match 50-20 after leading 24-6 at halftime.
With the Welwitschias now having to take them on, on their home turf at Barnard Stadium, the odds will be stacked against the Namibians, but coach Lyn Jones said it was all about confidence.
"It's a difficult fixture to begin with, and I don't really know how good we are at this stage. But there are still mental scars from last year and the confidence of the players will be very important," he said.
"I don't know if we can beat Falcons on their home turf, but it's all about confidence and how quickly we can gel as a team. In our friendly match against there Namibian Barbarians a week ago, we gave a fantastic first half performance and if we can do that again we stand a chance," he said.
The Welwitschias won that friendly 22-12 after leading 17-0 at halftime, with eighthman Leneve Damens scoring two tries and flanker Rohan Kitshoff one, while fly half Theuns Kotze added two conversions and a penalty.
For the Barbarians, wing Sylvano Beukes and flanker Renaud van Neel scored tries while full back Lorenzo Louis added a conversion.
In the second half, Jones made a lot of substitutions which disrupted their momentum, but despite the close scoreline, Jones said the friendly was a big success.
"I was looking for a good, organized and structured game and that's exactly what we got in the first 40 minutes. I was delighted with the effort that both sides gave as well as the work that manager Flippe Louw and coach Johan Diergaardt did with the Barbarians - it shows what we can do if we work together," he said.
"In trial matches the scoreline is not important, it's more about the team performance and I'm delighted with the progress we made," he added.
Jones added that the competition for places was getting stronger.
"We now have strong competition for places and there are a lot of good players outside the Welwitschias squad of 23. They must just continue to work hard to raise their game and to push for a place in the squad. It's all about raising the standard and creating a bigger squad to choose from for both the Welwitschias and the national squad," he said.
Jones said several of the substitutes also put in good performances.
"In the second half we gave an opportunity to a lot of players and some really put in good performances. Mapisa (Tjeriko) was really good and Cameron (Klassen) also did well. Another one who impressed was the u20 hooker Obert Nortje - he really has a good future and we need to develop him properly. Denzil van Wyk also looked good, but unfortunately he injured his knee and will be out for at least four weeks," he said.
Jones has made just two changes to the starting line-up that played against the Barbarians. Captain Eugene Jantjies has recovered from a shoulder injury and returns to the team at scrum half in place of Cameron Klassen, while the experienced utility back David Philander replaces Heinrich Smit at full back.
The Welwitschias squad is as follows:
Christo McNish, Shaun du Preez, AJ de Klerk, Muniovita Kasiringua, Max Katjijeko, Thomasua Forbes, Rohan Kitshoff, Leneve Damens (vice captain), Eugene Jantjies (captain), Theuns Kotze, Gino Wilson, Darryl de la Harpe, JC Greyling, Lesley Klim, David Philander.
Gerhard Lotter, Collen Smit, Mahepisa Tjeriko, Victor Rodriques, Cameron Klassen, Francois Wiese, Aurelio Plato.