Namibia: Ambushed in Abidjan

Namibia's 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign got off to a dismal start when they suffered a shock 24-13 defeat to the Ivory Coast in Abidjan on Saturday.

It was a poor and disjointed display by Namibia, ranked 25th in the world, which was not helped by a big penalty count against them, but at the same time, the Ivory Coast, ranked 42nd, showed more commitment and defended as if their lives depended on it.

The hosts attacked from the start and took a firm grip on the game with two early tries.

Their eighthman and captain Meïté Baky went over from a forward maul after five minutes, while left wing Paul Diallo rounded off a backline attack seven minutes later, and with fly half Ezer Kosse converting both tries, they went 14-0 ahead.

Namibia opened their account with a penalty by TC Kisting midway through the first half, and although their forwards started winning more possession, some promising backline attacks were thwarted by knock-ons.

Hooker Obert Nortje finally went over for Namibia's opening try after a rolling maul on 33 minutes, but Kosse immediately struck back with a penalty, and when the Ivory Coasts forwards went over for a third try just before half time they took a commanding 24-8 lead at the break.

Namibia were further weakened when flanker Max Katjijeko was sin-binned for 10 minutes just before half time, but despite being a man down, they started the second half on the offensive.

Eighthman Adriaan Booysen, fullback Johann Tromp, and lock and captain PJ van Lill all put in some strong attacks, but more handling errors and a committed Ivorian defence kept them at bay.

Katjijeko seemed to go over for a try after a forward maul midway through the second half, but after the referee conferred with the linesman it was disallowed and the Ivory Coast were awarded a penalty.

Namibia's pressure finally paid off when centre Lesley Klim went over for an unconverted try with nine minutes to go, but despite camping on the Ivory Coast's try line in the final stages, the hosts defended superbly and held on for a shock victory.

It was an ignominious start for new coach Allister Coetzee and now puts Namibia in a precarious position, as they must win their next match against Madagascar on Wednesday if they want to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.

Only the top two of the competing three nations will progress to the Africa Cup finals next year, where the overall winner will book a ticket for the World Cup, while the runner-up will still have a chance via a repechage qualifying tournament.

There was also a big upset in Nairobi where the 54th-ranked Senegal beat the 32nd-ranked Kenya 20-19 in Pool B of the Africa Cup. Both sides must still play Zambia who are ranked 66th in the world.

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