New-look Welwitschias to take on Portugal 

National coach Allister Coetzee (centre) with captain Prince !Gaoseb and vice captain Danco Burger. Photo: Helge Schütz

National rugby coach Allister Coetzee on Tuesday announced several changes to the Welwitschias side that will take on Portugal in a test match in Windhoek on Saturday. 

The Welwitschias were hammered 92-8 by the Blue Bulls two weeks ago and only four players remain in their starting positions from that match, namely the centres Danco Burger and Alcino Izaacs, left wing Lloyd Jacobs and scrumhalf Jacques Theron. 

Some other positional changes have been made, with captain Prince!Gaoseb moving from eighthman to flank, Johan Retief moving from flank to lock, and Haitembu Shifuka from loose-head to tight-head prop. 

The squad has been strengthened by some professional players from abroad like fullback JC Nel of Griquas, flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel of the Lions and Max Katjijeko of Los Angeles Rugby Football Club; while others have returned from injury, including prop Jason Benade, hooker Obert Nortje and eighthman Adriaan Booysen.

Several other professional players abroad like Wian Conradie, Damian Stevens, Cliven Loubser and Louis van der Westhuizen, have, however, not been called up with Coetzee giving opportunities for local-based players to make their mark. 

They include Unam wing Quirione Majiedt who will make his national debut after a fine season in the local premier league, as well as the substitutes AJ Kearns, Peter Diergaardt, Des Sethie and Armand Combrinck.

At Tuesday’s press conference Coetzee said they had improved a lot since the Bulls drubbing. 

“We have improved each week that we have been together – every day a Welwitschias side gets the opportunity to be together theres improvement and the last two weeks especially has been really a step-up with some players coming in, and some injured players coming back,” he said.

“Yes, we are getting beaten, but make no mistake, the side is improving. We haven’t brought in a lot of outside internationals because we believe that we need to give the local guys the opportunities and exposure that they need to become better, so there are plans in place to make sure we bridge that gap. We need to do it quickly and playing a quality side like Portugal is part of that plan,” he added.

Coetzee said they had learnt valuable lessons against the Bulls.

“Never underestimate the lessons that we learnt against the Bulls because that was a quality side and we were really underprepared for that so there are no excuses. It  taught us a couple of lessons and that helped us a lot to prepare for this one because this is a proper test match that we are facing which is also going to be very tough,” he said.

Coetzee said the players will be highly motivated for the match. 

“To play a test match is enough motivation for any player, just to be able to put on his jersey, with the eagle on his chest and singing his country’s anthem in front of about 5 000 people. It gives me goosebumps just talking about it because that is what test rugby is all about, you represent your family and your country and its a home test as well,” he said.

The Namibian team is as follows:

JC Nel, Quirione Majiedt, Alcino Izaacs, Danco Burger (vice captain), Lloyd Jacobs, Tiaan Swanepoel, Jacques Theron, Adriaan Booysen, Max Katjijeko, Prince! Gaoseb (captain), Johan Retief, Adriaan Ludick, Haitembu Shifuka, Obert Nortje, Jason Benade. 

Substitutes: Armand Combrinck, Des Sethie, Chemigan Beukes, Ruan Ludick, Peter Diergaardt, AJ Kearns, Denzo Bruwer, Hillian Beukes. 

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