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Namibia inch closer to RWC 2011 qualification

2009-11-16 15:03:00 ISAF

14 November 2009 - Namibia will take a slender five point advantage into the home leg of their African play-off for a place at Rugby World Cup 2011 after edging a closely fought encounter with Tunisia 18-13 at the Stade El Menzah.

The five previous meetings behind these African rivals had all been won the by home side, three of them by the Tunisians so an away win for Namibia would prove a confidence booster ahead of the home leg in Windhoek on 28 November.

In a match dominated by Namibia's forwards, it was their full back Chrysander Botha who literally got off to a flying start in the third minute, gathering an exceptional cross field pass and, with an explosion of pace, left enough space between him and the chasing Tunisians to score under the posts.

Having converted his try, the visitors settled down quickly with a 7-0 lead.

If the home team were rattled by the ease with which Botha seared through their defence, they regrouped quickly under the leadership of Hedi Souid and won a series of penalty kicks which saw the score close to 7-6 midway through the first half.

The teams went in at half time at 10-6, both knowing they had missed opportunities to add to their tally, Tunisia driving forward with speed but unable to cross the line and allowing Namibian to kick a penalty just before the whistle.

Namibia had been dominant in the scrum for much of the first half, their experience and power reflected in their ability to halt Tunisia's progress, leading home coach Danie de Villiers to make a significant change at scrum half, replacing Aziz Kassar with Chahir Aouadi.

Further changes from Tunisia, including the introduction of Mohamed Ali Kochlef, prop Sami Limevi and Aymen Gloulou, led to Tunisia's best spell of the game, which saw last gasp tackles deny them tries on two occasions.

The changes had had the desired effect and the forwards began to provide greater assistance to the backline, who enjoyed creative cohesion forged under the guidance of De Villiers in the Tunisia Sevens team.

However, if Namibia's first try was one of pace and agility, their second was born from power and perseverance as they worked the Tunisia defensive line to force an opening deep in the corner. The conversion was missed, but Namibia looked comfortable at 15-6 midway through the second half.

Tunisia finally saw some reward for their efforts when wing Abbes Kherfani touched down near the corner flag to the jubilation of the small but passionate crowd. Lofti Bensellem, who had missed with two drop goal attempts, kicked the conversion to cut the deficit to 15-13.

Namibia, though, showed their big match experience, having graced the Rugby World Cup stage three times before, and stole a penalty kick in the 77th minute to break their duck on Tunisian soil.

The two sides will come face to face again at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek in two weeks time, both confident they can win if they play to their relative strengths to take their place alongside South Africa, Wales, Fiji and Samoa in Pool D.

Post match reaction

Namibia captain Kees Lensing: "I'm glad about the result but I think as a team we know we can play a lot better and we made it too hard for us in the second half. Luckily we have two weeks to prepare for the next game, the last game, and hopefully we can improve because if we want to go to the World Cup we will have to improve 100%.

Namibia coach John Williams: "I wasn't that worried at 7-6, 15-13 I was worried because I could see my guys were tired. But at 7-6 you know you had a feel for the game, I could see that sometimes we were making silly mistakes, you know knocking the ball on in the 22, five metres from the try-line, but when they got their try it was against play. We dominated scrums but we managed to pull through."

Tunisia coach Danie de Villiers: "A loss is a loss, we had our opportunities, I think it is a game of lost opportunities, we created chances in the first half and we just didn't convert that. It is going to be tough now, but I think we have seen today that the two teams are fairly equal. This is the first time that Namibia has won in Tunisia, and depending on how we react from this I am sure we are in with a chance to maybe repeat what they did here in Windhoek."

Match details

TUNISIA: 1. Hedi Souid (captain) 2. Aziz Kassar 3. Akram Aouamri 4. Amara Dridi 5. Abdelmajid Zemzem 6. Kaled Zegden 7. Mohamed Ben Hmida 8. Moured Souid 9. Sabri Gmir 10. Lofti Bensellem 11. Abbes Kherfani 12. Amor Mezgar 13. Amor Hamdi 14. Haithem Chelly 15. Sabeur Charrada.

Replacements: 16. Noktar Guetari 17. Sari Limevi 18. Chahir Aouadi 19. Amine Gharsallah 20. Mohamed Ali Kochlef 21. Aimen Gloulou 22. Mohamed Garali.

NAMIBIA: 1. Kees Lensing (captain) 2. Hugo Horn 3. Jane du Toit 4. Wacca Kazombiaze 5. Nico Esterhuyse 6. Jacques Burger 7. Jacques Nieuwenhuis 8. Tinus du Plessis 9. Jurie van Tonder 10. Emile Wessels 11. Heini Bock 12. Tinus Venter 13. Piet van Zyl 14. Bradley Langenhoven 15. Chrysander Botha.

Replacements: 16. Shaun Esterhuizen 17. Marius Visser 18. Heinz Koll 19. PJ van Lill 20. Eugene Jantjies 21. Robert Herridge 22. David Philander.

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