THE beleaguered Welwitschias play their last match in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge when they host the Hino Valke at the Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After having lost their opening six matches, the Welwitschias are bottom of the log on zero points and a huge points deficit of minus 309.
In their last outing, last weekend they were thrashed 106-0 by the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga, and their average score after six matches is 16-68.
The Welwitschias have been considerably weakened due to the national team's participation in the World Rugby Nations Cup tournament currently underway in Uruguay, and the lack in depth showed as a new look team lost 81-8 to the Leopards in Windhoek on 25 May, before their Mbombela mauling last weekend.
Numerous players were called up to the Welwitschias squad for the first time and their inexperience and lack of communication was clearly exposed in their recent two defeats.
Players like Lorenzo Louis, Henrique Olivier, Berry Gande, Joshua Jacobs, Driaan Vorster and Paulus Hangula have all been in great form in the local Premier League, but the SuperSport Challenge is clearly at a much higher level.
Welwitschias coach Johan Diergaardt ,however, remained upbeat, saying that the team had improved a lot.
"From the first match played against the Leopards to where we are now, I have seen a big improvement in the structure of the team. Our scrums improved when we faced the Pumas, while our playing phases were better, as well as our overall planning.
"The one-on-one defence wasn't too great, but it's something we have worked on coming from the Pumas and we have moved from 'nowhere to somewhere' in a very short space of time."
Diergaardt added that the SuperSport Challenge had given the players a chance to prove themselves.
"Competing in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge gave the players a chance to prove themselves under pressure, and there are those that have given it their all. Speaking of opportunities, this weekend we will see Tuna Amutenya in the starting line-up for the first time as well as Hillian Beukes," he added.
The president of the Namibia Rugby Union, Corry Mensah also lent his support to the Welwitschias.
"I encourage everyone to come out an support the Welwitschias on Saturday when they play Hino Valke - it's really what the team needs after their loss against the Pumas last weekend. We need to now leave the Pumas behind us. Remember that back in 2018 on the 16th of June, we also lost with a similar margin of 94 - 3, but came back a better team," he said.
The Welwitschias squad is as follows:
Simon Kanime, Gerhard Thirion, Graham April, Ruan Ludick, Reinhardt Carelse, Berry Gande, Joshua Jacobs, Driaan Vorster, JC Winkler (captain), Henrique Olivier, Paulus Hangula, Milaan van Wyk, Jamie Joseph, Chad Plato, Lorenzo Louis, Jeandre Cloete, Wilfred Saunderson, Enzio Kotze, Kami Mieze, Jay-C Olivier, Hillian Beukes and Tuna Amutenya.
Wanderers v Unam postponed
The lack of depth and scarcity of players has also affected the local Rugby Premier League, with the highly anticipated clash between Wanderers and Unam being postponed to 27 July.
Both teams provide the bulk of players in the national squad, and as such, their request for a postponement has been granted by the Namibia Rugby Union.
There will still be two league matches tomorrow, though, with Rehoboth taking on Reho Falcon in the Rehoboth derby, while Kudus host the log leaders United at the Narraville Stadium.
United currently lead the log on 22 points from five matches, with Wanderers on 21 and Unam on 19 points in hot pursuit.
Kudus have been struggling and with only one win to date they are currently second last on the log on 10 points. On their home turf, though, they cannot be underestimated and United can expect a tough match.
Rehoboth and Reho Falcon have also been struggling with the Falcons bottom of the log without a win and Rehoboth third from bottom on 12 points.
Rehoboth have only won two of their five matches, but their defeats have all been close, to Wanderers (33-31), Unam (25-20) and Western Suburbs (23-22).
They will start as firm favourites and a victory will put them right back in the title race and within reach of Suburbs (16 points) and Unam (19).