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Namibia rugby: Out of Boks' shadow

By Sean Davies

Colours: Blue
Emblem: African fish eagle
Rugby songs: Land of the brave
Nick name: Biltongboere, Welwitschias

The First World War brought rugby to Namibia, the game introduced by South African soldiers when they invaded the German-run colony in 1915.

A Namibia fan shows his colours

The South African influence would continue, Namibia's team competing in the Currie Cup as South West Africa until the country gained its independence in 1990.

The British and Irish Lions played games in South West Africa in 1962, 1968, 1974 and 1980 and, until independence, Namibian players were also eligible to represent the Springboks, the likes of Jan Ellis and Percy Montgomery taking that route.

The Namibia Rugby Union was formed in March 1990 and immediately joined the International Rugby Board.

They had gained their best-ever Currie Cup finish of third in 1989, so presented a tough challenge to Ron Waldron's Neath-dominated Wales side when they toured in 1990.

Kevin Phillips captained Wales on the tour, fellow Welsh All Blacks Glyn Llewellyn and Chris Bridges winning their maiden caps in the first Test in Windhoek.

Chris Bridges
Bridges scored the crucial try on his Wales debut against Namibia in 1990

It was men from Neath who contributed all the Welsh points, Paul Thorburn scoring 14 while Bridges got the crucial try that took Wales from a worrying 9-9 scoreline to an 18-9 win.

Namibia full-back Andre Stoop - who was later to make a name for himself in rugby league in the north of England - was sent off by referee Fred Howard for head-butting Steve Ford.

Waldron's men stayed in Windhoek for the second Test a week later, where Owain Williams was given his only Wales cap.

The flanker scored a try, while Thorburn's 15 points and a long Anthony Clement drop-goal took the tourists to a 30-15 advantage.

But the fragilities in Waldron's team were exposed as Namibia fought back to level at 30-30, Wales needing Arthur Emyr to score his second try to sneak the win.

The following year was perhaps the finest for Namibian rugby as they won all 10 of their Tests, including two victories over Ireland and two in another home series against Italy.

Their introduction to the international scene had been too late to give the fledgling side the chance to qualify for the 1991 World Cup, though.

Wales were back in Windhoek in 1993 under coach Alan Davies - and again they had to battle for their win.

The tourists were behind 20-19 after 60 minutes in a match that saw the lead change five times.

Namibia full-back Jaco Coetzee contributed 18 points, but two tries from Emyr Lewis helped Wales to a 38-23 success.

The Welwitschias missed out on qualification for the 1995 World Cup, but reached rugby's ultimate stage in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Limited player numbers and the difficulties of finding regular, challenging fixtures have restricted their impact, though.

Namibia have never won a World Cup game and suffered a record 142-0 defeat against Australia in 2003.

The Welwitschias will be very much the underdogs in New Zealand in 2011 as they prepare for group games against Wales, South Africa, Fiji and Samoa.

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see also
Wales v Namibia: Full record
11 Jul 10 |  Rugby Union
Namibia rugby songs
27 Aug 10 |  Rugby Union
History of the Lions
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Country profile: Namibia
04 May 11 |  Country profiles

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