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Namibia qualification already a World Cup success story claims coach

SAINT ETIENNE, France - Namibia will be looking to show improvement when they play their opening Rugby World Cup match against Italy on Saturday but coach Allister Coetzee says they have already achieved success by qualifying for the tournament in France.

Namibia take on Italy in their opening Pool A match at Saint Etienne’s fabled Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, hoping for a much closer contest than when they met the Italians last, also in their opening pool match at the 2019 World Cup where Namibia lost 47-22.

These finals in France mark the seventh successive World Cup for Namibia, who have lost all 22 past fixtures at the tournament, but Coetzee insists they are already winners.

"Success for a Namibian team is once you overcome all the challenges and you get to a World Cup for a seventh time, that is already success in its own right. There are a couple of big nations not lucky to be here. We have worked hard and played ourselves into this competition again,” said the coach.

"We don't only define our success by results on the scoreboard but we have to make sure that we have improved a lot, because these blokes have worked really hard.”

Coetzee said there had been many sacrifices made by his squad.

"Some players had to change jobs because of not qualifying for a month of leave from their work," he added.

The largely arid southern African country is vast but with a small population. It is the second least densely populated country in the world with 2.7 inhabitants per square kilometre.

"Firstly our players travel unbelievable distances in Namibia. Windhoek is in the centre but up north it’s five hours' drive to get to a training or a practice. To the coast is also four hours' drive, to the south it's even further, sometime seven hours. So, wherever the players are situated it's always a sacrifice. And that tells of the resilience of the people and how much they love rugby.”

Coetzee thinks Namibia will be able to match Italy in many facets of the game on Saturday.

"Namibian DNA is a bit different - as much as they want to defend, they also like to use the ball. Obviously, the Italian team are very strong. They put you under pressure with their line-speed. For us it is a matter of how close we can get to the areas where you normally score points from," he said.

"A set-piece will always be a foundation around which you will build your pressure points. We know the Italians have a good scrum, a good lineout, maul and we, as a group, feel we have grown in those departments. I'm comfortable that we will do our best there, especially on our own ball.

"We've worked out a plan to make sure we are competitive in all areas," he added. REUTERS