NAMIBIA are targeting honours when they compete at the upcoming 2022 Rugby Africa Barthés U20 Trophy in Nairobi, Kenya.
Head coach Chrysander Botha named his travelling team yesterday following a challenging preparatory period punctuated by unrest in the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU).
The tournament is a welcome distraction for the youngsters who missed out on the action altogether last year after several members of the team tested positive for Covid-19. The year before that Namibia fell 21-18 to Kenya in the final.
They will be looking to reclaim the title and underline their pedigree on the continent between 9 and 17 April.
“We’re going to Kenya to play our hearts out. The past few weeks were a bit difficult for us to get each other and bond as a team to prepare for the tour. But I believe we will do well,” captain Rowan Jansen said.
Only three teams participated last year due to Covid-19 interruptions, with Kenya edging Madagascar 21-20 to retain the trophy.
This year, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all confirmed they will be vying for the title.
“This is a platform for our boys to go out there and just do well. I don’t think any team prepares just to go and participate; we’re going over there to win this tournament,” Botha said.
“Yes, we did lose in the previous tournament, but that just goes to show that development of rugby in Africa is happening at the moment,” he said of their rivals rapid improvement.
“We need to strategically plan how we’re going to move forward because the rest of Africa is catching up to us, especially the likes of Kenya and Zimbabwe.
“We need to invest all our time and energy in the development of our players. Not just u20, but at the grassroots level as well.”
Namibia face the fast-improving Ivory Coast on 9 April in their first match. Their next opponent will be confirmed after the opening day’s results.
That fixture will be played on 13 April after which the final will be contested on 17 April when the ranking for u20 will be determined.
“It’s a difficult route as we face Ivory Coast, then possibly Kenya and then Zimbabwe in the final. But, if you want to be the best then you have to beat the best, as they say. We’re planning on going all out and we’re going there to represent Namibia and do everyone proud,” Botha said.
The Barthés U20 Trophy is the Rugby Africa U20 championship. Teams compete annually and the winners of the competition earn the right to represent the African continent at the World Rugby Junior Trophy.
NRU assembled a training squad in January, which was then trimmed to the travelling 25 players and eight reserves in mid-March.
“It was a difficult selecting the team because, with the participation of the u20 tournament and playing in three games with a short turnaround, we had to choose players that are versatile and can handle the physicality of the games and the teams that we are playing against,” Botha said.
“So, finding the correct balance was of utmost importance and I think we did that. I think we proved that in the warm up games we played.
The difficulties faced during the preparations for the crucial development tournament will spur them on, Botha said.
“Regarding preparation, I think we’ve done our utmost best with the resources we have and the ongoing support from the Namibia Rugby Union,” he said.
“I have to thank the parents for allowing the boys to settle in Windhoek as we are diverse and have players coming from all over the country. It’s been difficult having everyone here, but I think we’ve done well over the last couple of weeks.”
The turmoil within the NRU, which saw the entire board resign earlier last month, has taken its a toll on everyone, an emotional NRU chief executive officer John Heynes said when sending the team off yesterday.
A good tournament will help ease the tensions and smooth over divisions, he hoped.
“I know it has been an uphill battle. Just go and make us proud. Show what a good team you are and carry the flag as high as possible,” Heynes said.
In the team are: Leonardo Bayer, Bernd Beddies, Geraldo Beukes, Darren Beukes, Oela Blaauw, Conwille Draghoender, Ray-Eez Feris, Frederich Grobbelaar, Riaan Grove, Owen Hawanga, Niel Holtzhausen, Rowan Jansen, Alexander Jansen, Patrick Karsten, Quirine Majiedt, Lucky Mauha, Upahee Muhuura, Gregory Namaseb, Jan Otto, Franco Pearson, Henri Rossouw, Iyambo Tshuuya, Rashano van Rooi and Janes van Zyl.
Technical team: Chrysander Botha (coach), Jacobus Husselmann (team manager), Wilfred Nico Bezuidehoudt (team doctor).
Full article at The Namibian
Written by: Sheefeni Nikodemus