Namibia defeated Russia by 39 points to 19 on Saturday in Windhoek in the first test of the Windhoek Draught test series. The hosts produced their best performance in over a year with a comprehensive victory over a side ranked 3 places higher at number 22 on World Rugby’s rankings. Coming off three consecutive losses at the Nations Cup in Romania last month, Namibia superbly led by Saracens loose-forward Jacques Burger, put their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign firmly back on track.
Namibia’s French based flyhalf Theuns Kotzè opened the scoring with a 4 th minute penalty but the visitors then stunned the 3000 strong home crowd with a well worked try from wing Igor Galinovsky. Veteran flyhalf Yuri Kushnarev converted to make it 7-3 after just 8 minutes of play. The influence of newly appointed back-line coach Pieter Rossow was immediately evident as the Namibian backs attacked with accuracy and pace not seen by Namibian supporters in a long time. Man of the Match Russell van Wyk scored after the Namibians won set phase ball and played it wide, van Wyk only in his second test appearance, recorded the first of his two test tries to restore Namibia’s lead. Kotzé converted to take the score to 13-7 but also missed at least four shots of goal which could have given Namibia a comfortable lead at the break. The Russians on the other hand managed to hold on to possession and work the ball through a couple of phases but at least four try scoring opportunities were wasted through handling errors. At the sound of the half-time horn they were finally awarded for their enterprising approach when number 8 Viktor Gresev crashed over in the corner for an unconverted try. The half-time score 13-12 to Namibia.
The second half started with Kotzè missing yet another attempt at goal and Russia twice getting close to scoring from line-out drives only to be stopped by a well organised Namibian defence. The injection of Namibia’s replacements took the game from Russia’s reach. In the 10 th minute Exeter Chiefs fullback Chrysander Botha took a quick tap on his own 22 and linked up with Johan Tromp who had moved to the wing, Tromp sent scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies away for one of the best tries seen in many years at the Hage Geingob Stadium. Kotzè converted to take the score to 20-12. Namibia’s third try and van Wyk’s second try after they won a line-out ball and played it wide, finally broke the visitors resistance. Trailing by 25-12 and 20 minutes remaining the Russians were starting the feel the effects of only arriving in Windhoek Thursday evening and the altitude.
With twenty minutes remaining Russia launched one attack after the other on the Namibian line but just could not break through a resilient Namibian defence. Instead they saw Namibia put the result beyond any doubt when replacement centre JC Greyling intercepted and ran half the length of the field to score under the posts. At 32-12 it was hard to see the now beaten Russians prevent a first ever defeat to Namibia but the visitors never gave up and were rewarded in the form of a try by replacement Danila Chegadoav.
The Namibians were not done though, with two minutes remaining Tromp put in a superb chase after a high — kick, he gathered to send Leopards centre Johan Deysel away for Namibia’s fifth try, Kotzè converted to cap an unforgettable performance by Namibia. The final score 39-19.
Namibian captain, Jacques Burger, playing in his first test on home soil since 2009, was ecstatic with the win. “ I am massively proud of the team, a victory in any test match is great, I am just very proud of the team who defended until the end . We stuck to our structures and came away with a win.”
Despite the comprehensive victory and big margin Burger said he his team still had a lot to work and improve on .” It is a whole new squad and certainly a lot of room for improvement but there were a lot of positives out their today and we know we can improve on that,” said the Namibian captain.
New Namibian head coach Phil Davies was equally satisfied with the team’s performance.” It was a good performance and good first step on the rung of the ladder towards the World Cup but we know there is still a lot of hard work to do.”
The second test between Namibia and Russia in die Windhoek Draught Friendship series will be played next Saturday at the same venue.
Namibia – Tries by Russell van Wyk (2), Eugene Jantjies, JC Greyling & Johan Deysel.
Penalty goals : Kotzè
conversions : Kotzè (3) and Jantjies.
Russia – Tries by Igor Galinosvky, Viktor Gresev & Danila Chegadoav
Conversions : Kushnarev (2)