A Welwitschias Invitation team put up a spirited performance before going down 52-38 to a Blue Bulls Invitation team in a friendly match in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.
The Welwitschias showed great character to overturn a 31-17 deficit early in the second half to draw level at 31-31, and the result was in the balance till the end when a Franco Naude try sealed the Bulls' victory.
The Bulls scored a total of eight tries with hooker Jan Henning Campher and eighthman Frederick Ecksteen scoring two each, and Naude, prop Dayan van der Westhuizen and replacement forward Denzel Hill one each, while they also got a penalty try.
Fly half Tinus de Beer added four conversions and replacement back Wian van Zyl one conversion.
The Welwitschias scored five tries with left wing Janry du Toit scoring two and centre JC Greyling, and substitute flankers Thomas Kali and Gilad Plaatjies one each. Fly half PW Steenkamp converted all five and added a penalty for a personal tally of 13 points.
The Welwitschias were overpowered in the set pieces with the Bulls dominating the scrums and line-outs, but they showed some great initiative in creating opportunities from the little possession that came their way.
Their first try by Janry du Tout came from a quick counterattack launched by Chrysander Botha from deep within his own half, while the second, barely a minute later, came from quick thinking by Johann Tromp who pounced onto a Bulls error to set a flying JC Greyling through for a stunning try.
The Welwitschias, however, made too many defensive errors, especially in the second half, when the Bulls ran in some soft tries, while the lack of fitness of some of the players was evident.
After the match, the Welwitschias' assistant coach JP Nel said they had acquitted themselves well in trying circumstances.
"Before the game we asked our players to show some pride and despite everything that's happened outside the game they are still representing themselves and I think they did an excellent job," he said.
"We said beforehand that the Bulls pride themselves in the set pieces and I think if we had an extra week to prepare as a team to sort out a bit of our line-outs and scrums I think it would have been a different story today," he added.
The Welwitchias brought on several new players as second half replacements and Nel said he was pleased with their performance.
"It was a great opportunity for us to give some of the young guys an opportunity and I think a guy like Gilad (Plaatjies) who played for Namibia u20 this year, did very well and made a real difference when he came on."
The match took place against the backdrop of a power battle between the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) and the Namibia Rugby Limited (NRL) and several players wore black armbands to show their solidarity with the NRL and its High Performance Programme.
In a statement issued via email by Namibian flanker Rohan Kitshoff on behalf of the players, on Thursday, they said they could not remain non-committal anymore.
"We can't be quiet anymore while the actions and decisions of certain individuals are killing the game in Namibia," the statement read.
"Namibia Rugby Limited is responsible for the High Performance Programme and our results in the Africa Gold Cup this year show that it is working. Without this programme and the funds that go with it, this success will not be possible and will lead to a dead end for Namibian rugby.
"Therefore we will wear black armbands on Saturday as a sign that if this conflict is not resolved it will lead to the death of rugby in Namibia. We also want to make it clear that if the conflict is not resolved, we will not play in any further matches in the current circumstances," it said.