x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Financial aid allows Namibia players to regain focus

The national side's government stepped in to assist in the cost of sending the team to New Zealand, as well as paying the players' costs.

The lowest-ranked team at the Rugby World Cup already faced a huge challenge to win their first ever match at the tournament, even before doubts Namibia could afford to send a squad started plaguing their preparations for New Zealand.

Namibia have qualified for every World Cup since 1999, but have lost all 11 matches and are perhaps remembered most for a 142-0 hammering by Australia in 2003, when the Namibians let in a World Cup-record 22 tries and went down by the biggest margin in the history of the tournament.

The squad retains 13 members from the 2007 campaign, where they hinted at some improvement with a battling 32-17 loss to Ireland, but the Namibia Rugby Union had to rely on extra money from their government and a team sponsor to make the trip to New Zealand and be able to pay the players.

"The players are very relieved and we appreciate the government's assistance," Jacques Burger, the captain and one of the few professionals in the squad, said. "The money issue was always at the back of our minds, but now it has been cleared and we can focus on the job at hand."

The vast majority of the players turn out for semi-professional clubs but Johan Diergaardt, the coach, still believes his 2011 group has a chance of a breakthrough win at the World Cup.

"It's a well-balanced team," Diergaardt said. "We don't have a great World Cup record, but I think it will be shortsighted to compare previous World Cups with this one."