Windhoek — Namibia Rugby Ltd, a commercial and operational arm of the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU), yesterday announced a strong well-blended squad of 44 young and experienced players that will represent the country at this year's Rugby Africa Gold Cup, which starts in June.
The Rugby Africa Gold Cup serves as qualification to next year's World Cup slated for Japan, and whoever wins this year's edition of Africa's biggest rugby spectacle will secure a spot at the 2019 World Cup as Africa 1 and will face world champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and the Repechage Winner in Pool B.
South Africa has already automatically qualified for the World Cup, hence their nonparticipation in the Gold Cup, meaning there is only one spot left for Africa at the 2019 World Cup and winner of this year's Gold Cup will secure that seat.
Africa Gold Cup reigning champions Namibia, who remain firm favourites to qualify for their sixth World Cup, will this year face Tunisia, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Morocco, for the 2018 Gold Cup title and a place at next year's World Cup.
Namibia's Gold Cup title defense starts with a clash at home against Uganda on June 16 and will be followed by a vital match against the ever-improving Tunisia on June 23. The Namibians will than travel to Morocco for their third qualification match on June 30, to be followed by another trip down to Bulawayo to face Zimbabwe on August 4. Namibia's final qualifier clash will be against Kenya at the Hage Geingob Stadium on August 18.
National team head coach Phil Davies has expressed his satisfaction with the pedigree of players selected for the Gold Cup, but concerns still remain with a few key players still recovering from injuries.
The squad is well balanced between experience and youth and he is excited about his team's chances in clinching their sixth consecutive Rugby Africa title and hopefully making another appearance at the World Cup.
"We believe that home-based Namibian players provide the heartbeat of the national team, therefore we have implemented a plan in our National Academy to increase the number of quality home-based players participating in the Super Sport Rugby Challenge and the Currie Cup competitions. We have introduced 25 new players at senior level, over the past two years, including many of our outstanding Under-20 players through a succession plan, which now boasts over 112 players that clearly identifies the spine of our squads for RWC 2019 & 2023," said Davies.
According to Welsh native, this year's Gold Cup will be Namibia's toughest qualifying group of matches of the past ten years.
"Despite the hefty challenge that awaits us, we are confident that we have developed and assembled a very strong squad with the relevant talent, mental strength and depth to meet those challenges." The group of 44 players announced yesterday also includes an additional 10 players that will be on standby in case of injuries during the Gold Cup.
The Namibian Africa Gold Cup squad: Chrysander Botha, Renaldo Bothma, Johannes Coetzee, Wian Conradie, AJ De Klerk, Darryl De la Harpe, Johan Deysel, Janry Du Toit, JC Greyling, Eugene Jantjies, Max Katjijeko, Helarius Kisting, Rohan Kitshoff, Lesley Klim, Cliven Loubser, Ruan Ludick, Adriaan Ludick, Justin Newman, Obert Nortje, Johan Retief, Divan Rossouw, Desiderius Sethie, PW Steenkamp, Damian Stevens, Nelius Theron, Mahepisa Tjeriko, Tjiuee Uanivi, Louis Van der Westhuizen, Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Pieter-Jan Van Lill, Janco Venter, Casper Viviers, Wihan Von Wielligh and Gino Wilson.
The 10 Players that will be on standby: Collen Smith, Thomasau Forbes, Prince Goaseb, Christo Van der Merwe, André Rademeyer, Nian Berg, Chad Plato, David Philander, Russell Van Wyk and Johann Tromp.