Busy international rugby programme in store 

The president of the NRU, Petri Theron (centre) with vice president Johan Diergaardt and NRU CEO John Heynes. Photo: Helge Schütz

The Namibian Welwitschias will host their first international match in six years against Portugal on 13 July while they will also take on the Blue Bulls a fortnight earlier.

Besides that they will play three international matches in the Africa Cup in Uganda towards the end of July, making this year’s international programme the busiest in many years, according to the president of the Namibia Rugby Union, Petri Theron. 

“We are really excited because the Portugal test will be the first test that we will have had on local soil since 2018, while the number of tests that we will play this year already exceeds the number that we played between the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cups,” he said. 

“For us, it’s an opportunity to showcase to our public what our national players can do, the new talent that we have on display, and also a mixture of experience that comes with some of the older players. And then two weeks after that, Namibia will be competing in the Africa Cup in Uganda where we will be playing Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Kenya on the 20th, 24th and the 28th of July,” he added. 

The NRU earlier this month named a 52-man local based squad in preparation for the matches but Theron said the final squad could still change.

“That is just our training squad, it’s not the final squad. Players will come in and go out of the squad based on availability, so we will have a look at who’s available in Namibia and who will be coming back to Namibia during these window periods, but we also want to give an opportunity to our local players to show what they can do on the international stage. We are building towards qualification for the 2027 and 2031 World Cups, so it’s important for us to constantly bring in new talent, to make the group broader, so that we expose all of them to our structures and systems.”

NRU vice president Johan Diergaardt added that the availability of Namibia’s foreign-based players will also be a determining factor.

“The availability of the players, specifically from abroad, will determine whether they will be in the final squad or not. Most of them will be back in Namibia towards the end of June but the Blue Bulls game doesnt fall within the international window period. They will therefore not be available for that game, so that team will most probably be made up of our local players,” he said. 

Portugal – ‘wonder child of the world cup’

Theron said the Portugal test will be very important since they are ranked higher than Namibia at 16th compared to 22nd, while it also forms part of their preparations for qualifying for the 2027 world cup. 

“Portugal was the wonder child of the 2023 World Cup – the best performer of the qualifying teams. They are coming here with their full squad because they are playing the Springboks a week later and obviously they want to impress on that stage. The Portugal game is really important for us because we want to play teams that are ranked higher than us – that’s the only way to climb the rankings. So it’s important to first of all determine where we are because you can only get to where you want to be if you realise and recognise where you are now,” he said. 

“That will give us a good indication because qualifying for the next world cup takes place in 2026, so next year is a very important year for us as well, running into that qualification year. The qualification format has also changed – we will have to qualify a bit earlier, which is really good for us, because it will give us more time to prepare. So this is a year where we can experiment a bit, and test the abilities of our younger players, to see how the combinations work with more experienced players, and then to build a solid foundation going forward into next year and 2026,” he added. 

Theron said that Allister Coetzee will remain as national head coach till the end of the year. 

“Allister’s contract is till the end of the year, we are just currently in the process of finalising the neccessary imigration documents, and at the end of the year we will reconsider where we are. Obviously for us it’s really important to support our local based coaches and prepare them for the international stage as well, so we also want to give them more opportunities. It will be a new hybrid system of using Allister’s expertise to upskill our local coaches, and preparing them for a higher level of coaching.”

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