Namibians keen to measure themselves against All Blacks
TOKYO (AP) — The one time the Namibians met New Zealand in test rugby, they got lots of breaks.
While waiting behind their posts for conversions.
Namibia conceded three tries in the first quarter, and five tries by halftime at the London Olympic Stadium in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The game was going as expected until Namibia slowed things down while trailing 41-9 early in the second half. They received a kickable penalty but went for a corner lineout that the crowd applauded. And when Torsten van Jaarsveld tidied up the lineout and center Johan Deysel crashed over for their only try, the Namibians received a cheer that would have shaken the roof if the stadium had one.
Van Jaarsveld, a hooker who plays in France, and Deysel are back to face New Zealand again on Sunday in Tokyo in the Rugby World Cup.
"We were a bit shell-shocked but then we realized we can play them and we scored a try," Deysel recalls. "We took a lot from that game. They put a lot of pressure on every facet of play. It isn't easy but they are just humans."
That's what he and Van Jaarsveld will be stressing on Sunday to their teammates, who are at odds of 250-1 to win. They will stress that the All Blacks bruise and bleed like them, that they can't run when they're tackled just like them, and that they make mistakes just like them.
Namibia has less than 900 registered players, most of whom have full-time jobs. They have been looking forward to this game with the All Blacks since the draw 17 months ago.
"Nothing's changed," coach Phil Davies says. "They're a very efficient rugby team and we've got to deal with their efficiency."
Lock Tjiuee Uanivi, up against former world player of the year Brodie Retallick, says, "The massive challenge for us will be to settle early in the game. If you're not settled and your nerves aren't calm, you can't concentrate and that's when they can cause the most problems. It was very exciting four years ago and it is still very exciting to play one of the best teams in the world and see how you measure up."
Janco Venter is also back, starting at No. 8 against Ardie Savea after coming off the bench in 2015.
"This is a phenomenal opportunity," Venter says. "At the last World Cup, we learned we should believe in our own ability. We should go out and play and not stand back. We should create our own opportunities, take them and enjoy it."
The Namibians have never won a Rugby World Cup match since their first tournament appearance 20 years ago, and defeats in Japan to Italy 47-22 and South Africa 57-3 this time round have not dimmed their enthusiasm or confidence. Their big chance is against Canada next weekend on the last day of the pool stage. In the meantime, they can't wait to see how they compare with the defending champions.
Helarius Kisting is starting at flyhalf for the first time, just like All Blacks counterpart Jordie Barrett. Kisting admits he's excited by the match.
"Even if you don't have a good time, even if you screw up everything, just do something for them to remember you," he urges teammates.
Uanivi agrees: "These are the games you want to play in and everyone is massively excited. We just can't wait to get out there and see how we measure up."