Namibia: Rugby World Cup Fever Grows

11 September 2019

EXCITEMENT for the Rugby World Cup is mounting after Namibia's national team made some final courtesy calls to President Hage Geingob at State House and the Japanese ambassador's residence on Tuesday, before their departure to Japan on Thursday morning.

President Geingob wished the team well, saying that the eyes of the world will be on them.

"We are a small country, but we are brave people and we will compete with the best against New Zealand, South Africa and Italy.

"Why do they always put us against the best - it's because they are afraid that we will go through to the next round so they want to demoralise us," he added jokingly.

"We will be praying for your health and safety in the matches, but also for victory. If you are defeated it's not the end of the world - you are putting your country on the map and exposing our young boys to the world.

"You qualified and beat all the teams in Africa - you are big in Africa and now you are going with the best, South Africa, to represent the continent.

"We will be watching you, so show them and make us proud as our ambassadors. Even if you lose people must say, hey, but Namibia fought well," he said.

The president of the Namibia Rugby Union, Corry Mensah said they were well prepared and would 'ask some tough questions of the big guys' in their group.

"We have the youngest Namibian team ever to participate and we also met our transformation target with the team balance being 50/50 between white and the previously disadvantaged. We have a great spirit and we are brothers going to war and we will make our nation proud," he said, adding that the president of the Confederation of African Rugby had also wished the team all the best.

Mensah also thanked the Namibian government for its financial support, with an official of the Namibia Sport Commission confirming that the government had contributed N$13,7 million towards their World Cup campaign.

Shortly after the State House visit, the team was whisked off to Japanese ambassador Hideaki Harada's residence for another courtesy call.

Ambassador Harada wished them well, saying that he was impressed by their dedication.

"Last year I visited the Namibia Rugby Union and I was very impressed to hear that a lot of the players work during the day and then train at night and this shows how determined they are. I was also moved when I heard the story about the rugby union's symbol - the Welwitschia plant - which is known for its adaptive ability and survival in a harsh climate for thousands of years," he said.

"Namibia will be competing in the most difficult group against New Zealand and South Africa, but you have the spirit of the welwitschia to survive against all odds and you will surely be able to overcome the hardship in your group. Japanese fans are eager to welcome you, so interact and make friends and learn about our culture. We wish you all the best," he added.

The deputy minister of sport, Agnes Tjongarero told the players not to be overawed.

"You are in a tough group, but it's just a group like any other. Keep your heads held high, we are the people from the land of the brave, we are the Welwitschias and we will make it.

She, however, reminded the players not to bring shame on their country.

"I hope none of you will test positive for any banned substances. Remember that you are representing your country and that the name of your country will be at stake if the tests come out positive.

She also thanked some of the foreign assistants in the touring party, saying that their help was much appreciated.

"Some of you don't have the eagle on your blazers, but don't worry about that. It's just our policy that only Namibians are allowed to have the eagle on their blazers, so don't think that we do not appreciate what you are doing. We do and are very thankful for your assistance," she said.

Namibian scrum half, Eugene Jantjies, who is going to his fourth World Cup said he was looking forward to the occasion.

"I'm very excited - it's a great privilege for me to be going to my fourth World Cup and I hope to make this the best one yet. All the World Cups were good - our match against Ireland in 2007 and the one against Georgia in 2015 stand out, but we hope to make this the best one yet," he said.

"Hopefully we can win two matches, then we won't have to qualify for the next World Cup," he added.

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