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Backs to the wall against Uruguay

Namibia will have their backs to the wall when they take on Uruguay in their final Rugby World Cup match in Lyon tonight. 

A campaign that promised so much has quickly unravelled with Namibia now having conceded 219 points after their first three matches, including a record 96-0 defeat to France, while injuries and a red card for captain Johan Deysel have left the team quite depleted.

Deysel’s fellow centre Le Roux Malan was already ruled out when he broke his ankle against the All Blacks on 15 September, while further injuries to loose-forwards Wian Conradie and Johan Retief, and wingback Divan Rossouw resulted in a big reshuffle with coach Allister Coetzee making seven changes to his starting line-up.

Regular lock Tjiuee Uanivi will captain the side, but this time starting at flank, while Alcino Isaacs makes his first start at centre alongside Danco Burger. 

Damian Stevens and Tiaan Swanepoel return at halfback in place of Jacques Theron and Cliven Loubser, with the latter moving to fullback.

The rest of the changes are amongst the forwards with Richard Hardwick coming in at eighthman in place of Prince !Gaoseb, who moves to flank; Tiaan de Klerk replaces Mahepisa Tjeriko at lock; Torsten van Jaarsveld comes in for Louis van der Westhuizen at hooker; and Jason Benade comes in for Des Sethie at prop. 

Both sides are looking for their first win at the world cup, with Uruguay heading into the match as the favourites. They are ranked 17th in the world compared to Namibia’s 21st, while they also hold a historical edge over Namibia, having won four of their previous encounters, while Namibia has only won one.

That win came in 2019 when Namibia edged a close encounter 30-28, but in their most recent meeting, at the Nations Cup in Montevideo last month, Uruguay once again triumphed 26-18. Namibia, however, gave a fine performance and could have won that match had they taken their chances, while they also held the upper hand in the forward exchanges. 

Since then, though, Uruguay have upped their game, putting in some impressive performances at the world cup, and they will head into tonight’s game with momentum on their side. 

They put in a great performance in their 27-12 defeat to France, while they also impressed before going down 38-17 to Italy. Furthermore, they have had a more favourable world cup schedule than Namibia, with an extra day to recuperate, while they are only playing their third match compared to Namibia’s fourth match at the world cup. 

Despite all the setbacks, Coetzee said they are well-prepared and ready for the challenge.

“It’s tough to play four matches in 18 days for any tier-two country. When you don’t have a lot of depth in your squad it’s really a challenge, but our players have really stepped up.

“I call them warriors because it’s really not easy when you have teams getting 12 or 13 days off until the next game. This is our fourth game, final game, playing against a quality Uruguay side this weekend and it will only be their third game. But we’ve prepared well. I’m looking forward to the game,” he said. 

“It is now up to us on how we are going to finish and the players know what a win will mean for the country – it can change a lot. So we will pitch up. It’s important for us to get over that final hurdle,” he added. 

Captain Uanivi, meanwhile, said they will give it their all to make their country proud. 

“It’s a great honour to captain my country. To prepare the team for a game like this, it’s a little bit easier after the two tough games. We feel like we’ve got a debt to pay to our country, and to put on a top performance.”

The Namibian team is as follows:

Cliven Loubser, Gerswin Mouton, Alcino Izaacs, Danco Burger, JC Greyling, Tiaan Swanepoel, Damian Stevens, Richard Hardwick, Tjiuee Uanivi (captain), Prince !Gaoseb; Tiaan de Klerk, Adriaan Ludick, Aranos Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Jason Benade.

Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Desiderius Sethie, Haitembu Shikufa, PJ van Lill, Max Katjijeko, Adriaan Booysen, Jacques Theron, Andre van der Berg.