Preview: South Africa v Namibia

15th Aug 2007, 07:53


Percy Montgomery: Celebrating a decade of playing for the Boks, and a decade of different hairstyles

Percy Montgomery: Celebrating a decade of playing for the Boks, and a decade of different hairstyles

For South Africa, could it be another Uruguay? For Namibia, could it be another Australia?

For South Africa, could it be another Uruguay? For Namibia, could it be another Australia?

The answer to both questions is most probably 'yes'. That the answer be 'no' is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

In 2005 South Africa beat Uruguay 134-3 in East London. In 2003, at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Australia beat Namibia 142-0 in Adelaide. Against Uruguay the Springboks scored 21 tries. Against the Wallabies, Namibia conceded 19 tries. Nobody wants a repeat of that but it could happen.

After all, the South African Students recently beat Namibia 32-20 in Windhoek at the end of July - just over two weeks ago.

The Students' players don't even play Currie Cup. At present they are a long way from being Springboks.

The core of that Namibian side is the one that will face the Springboks. The new blood is right wing Bradley Langenhoven, fly-half Emile Wessels, an ex-Matie who now plays in Canberra, eighthman Jacques Burger and hooker Hugo Horn. That is not enough to make a serious difference.

It would be sad if this historic match became historic for all sorts of records. And it is an historic match. It is the first time that the Springboks will play in a Test against another African country.

In the past Namibia, whose rugby started life as Damaraland and then for most of its existence was South West Africa, was, like Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia, a part of South African rugby.

Sias Swart, Loftie Fourie and the great Jan Ellis (who was the most capped Springbok when he retired) were Southwesters who became Springboks. South West Africa played in South Africa's provincial system.

They first played against a touring team in 1955, losing 9-0 to the great Lions. In 1962 they beat Western Province and in 1975 they drew with France. In 1991 they beat Italy twice, Ireland twice and Zimbabwe five times.

But professionalism has been beyond them and they have not been able to compete nearly as well for the last 14 years. But they have hope of rebuilding. They have government support but no interference and have no such thing as a quota/target system. They simply pick the best players.

Namibia play in Africa and it is through Africa that they have qualified again for the Rugby World Cup. Their problem has been the inability to choose their best possible side. Several of their players play professionally in South Africa.

So the team which lost to Uganda in Kampala this year does not look at all like the one to play the Springboks which includes Piet van Zyl of Boland, Jacques Burger of Griquas, Jacques Nieuwenhuis of the Valke, Hugo Horn and Marius Visser of Border, Kees Lensing of the Sharks and Jané du Toit of Griquas.

The only South Africa-based player missing is hooker Skipper Badenhorst whom the Sharks want, but will release for the World Cup.

They are also missing experienced lock Heino Senekal who is injured. He damaged a thumb at practice a while back but will be ready for the World Cup.

Namibia would have liked to have had his strength and experience against Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, but they have the young Matie with the long reach Nico Esterhuyse who can make life difficult for opponents in the line-outs.

There are two new caps in the Namibia side - Bradley Langenhoven, who plays for the Pukke (the University of the North West in Potchefstroom), and Piet van Zyl who has been a star in the centre for Boland.

The Namibians believe that their own conditioning is the best it has ever been. They realise that "we are going to have to defend for 80 per cent of the match and that requires extra fitness".

The Biltongboere will hope that the changes will make a difference, but it is a hope of presumptuous proportions. Their other hope will be that the well-rested Springboks will be rusty - as has been the case with many reconditioned players when the time comes to put their reconditioning to the real test of a physical match.

Rain, they say, can be a leveller. It's unlikely to have a serious effect on the game on the new Newlands surface with its smooth carpet and excellent drainage.

But neither rust nor new spare parts will get the Namibian machine rolling over the Springboks. They are used to Tests against Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Uganda, Tunisia and Morocco.

The Springboks play against Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Ireland and so on - and this is the most experienced Springbok team of all time - of all time!

The absence of Bryan Habana and Pierre Spies is not going to destroy them.

What does the match have to offer?

It is a Test match. It is labelled one.

But the testing may well be in the functioning of Jake White's backline now that Eddie Jones has made an input and in the durability of Hakkies Husselman's team, for he has made a difference. It gives both sides a chance to play in the sort of circumstances which they may well meet in France. That, too, is a test of sorts.

White said: "It is not about the result; it is about what we've practised. I don't want to sound arrogant, but it is not how much we win by - it's the performance we produce and the kind of cohesion we get with this group together. A lot of these guys haven't played for a while and a lot of these guys haven't played as a group. It is more about getting the combinations and the rhythm going."

The Namibian amateurs will give their very best against the South African professionals and would probably be satisfied if the points' difference was kept to 40.

Players to Watch: Oh, you will want to watch Percy Montgomery and Os du Randt of South Africa for all they have meant to Springbok rugby for so many years. This will be their last Test on home soil and everybody will be there to say thank you and farewell.

For Montgomery it's almost romantic. He was born in Walvis Bay when it was a South African enclave. Now it is a part of Namibia. His dad, Percival, was in charge of the fishing fleet. In Percy's father's time, Walvis Bay played its rugby in South West Africa and in 1975 he played for South West Africa against Stellaland. Here, in possibly his last match on African soil, Percival's descendant will play against Namibia, South West Africa's descendant.

If you picked a Namibian it would probably be eighthman Jacques Burger with the bush of hair and the endless, courageous energy.

Head to Head: Kees Lensing (Namibia) against CJ van der Linde (South Africa). When Lensing was with the Bulls he was probably the most feared prop in Super 12. CJ has not been a great scrummager at all, regularly penalised as he is. But now Van der Linde has the lock backing that Lensing would like. If Lensing, who has not had great game time at the Sharks, stands up strong he is indeed a mighty prop.

Prediction: If Namibia can keep the losing margin to 50 points they will have done well.


South Africa:
15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Ashwin