RWC 2023 review: Namibia

RWC 2023 review: Namibia

Namibia may have left France without having registered their first Rugby World Cup win, but they brought joy to fans in packed stadiums throughout their adventure across the four cities that hosted their matches.

Abiding memory

The team continuously risked it all to kick for the corner from their penalties instead of kicking for poles - no matter how big the game or the scoreline - earning the respect and adoration of the French fans. The reception Namibia received at the end of their 96-0 defeat by France, who had almost all the support in attendance, said it all.

Try of the tournament

Their first one. In their opening game against Italy in a scorching Saint-Étienne, Namibia worked their way up the field before fly-half Tiaan Swanepoel spun a long floating pass down the right for Gerswin Mouton to sprint and score in the corner, where he was mobbed by jubilant team-mates.

Quotes that said it all

There was a fiery comment from second-rower Adriaan Ludick at a media briefing ahead of their game against France - "I’m an enforcer, they have enforcers, so we’ll see on Thursday night who wins the battle" - while hooker Louis van der Westhuizen was more worried about the heat in southern France: "It’s hot for us gingers," he told journalists in Marseille.

Man of the moment

When JC Greyling went over for his try against Uruguay, he became the first Namibian to score tries in three Rugby World Cups. The winger registered scores at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, in Japan four years later and again at Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

One for the future

Another winger: Gerswin Mouton. The 23-year-old scored the first of Namibia’s tries against Uruguay to go with his score against Italy. Like Greyling, he has serious pace and looks to be someone who will star for Namibia if they make it to Rugby World Cup 2027.

From the Touchline

Le Roux Malan’s tournament ended in heartbreaking fashion as he was stretchered from the field during Namibia’s game against New Zealand. However, the All Blacks showed their class to give Malan some solace as opposite number Anton Lienert-Brown visited the centre in hospital. Team captain Johan Deysel later said of the gesture: "For Anton to pay him a visit is amazing and everyone in the world could see that. Hopefully that’s something that can rub off on every team; to look out for one another."

Key statistics

Namibia showed during the tournament that they are far from pushovers, even if some scorelines got away from them. They ended their group-stage campaign with a collision success percentage that was the second best of any of the teams at that point (51 per cent), and they had also made the third-most dominant carries per game with 34.5.

Editor’s verdict

It was always going to be difficult in the pool with two of the world’s top-five teams, but ultimately their indiscipline cost them at crucial times, including in that final match against Uruguay where they conceded 14 points after two yellow cards. Head coach Allister Coetzee always made sure his players had plenty of life experiences to draw from in this tournament, and to the players’ credit they did everything at this Rugby World Cup with smiles on their faces.

They may not have won any games, but they won plenty of hearts along the way. "It's the end of the adventure," Coetzee said after their final game. "And I must say it was an adventure."

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