On paper this game was a walk in the park for the mighty All Blacks; the number one ranked team versus the lowest ranked team who qualified after seeing off Kenya and Zimbabwe in the African qualifiers. Even the bookies had it pegged as a big one horse race with one online bookmaker offering odds of 1000/1 for an always unlikely Namibian win.
As it turned out, the contest left rookie NZ Captain Sam Cane frustrated at what he described as a “stop-start” game.
The game, which appeared to start tamely, briefly burst into life after five minutes with the All Blacks putting 20 plus points on the board in the first 15 minutes through tries from Vito, Milner-Skudder and Fekitoa. After another try from Beaudean Barrett under the posts, the half petered out although Milner-Skudder scored to give NZ a comfortable 34-6 half time lead.
With NZ apparently cruising on a near 30 point lead, the Namibians weren’t rolling over.
A combination of the often indomitable spirit of rugby and Namibian pride saw the Welwitschias fight back.
Another All Back try was followed by a Namibian penalty and then a well worked try greeted by huge roars of encouragement from the crowd.
Providing ample evidence that the gap in quality between the teams in world rugby is closing, the boys from Namibia – which has just 1500 registered players – battled bravely, making the All Blacks work for every point.
Namibian coach Phil Davies said after the match, “If you consider previous World Cups against tier 1 nations, it’s a massive step forward. A lot of people are supporting tier 2 nations and World Rugby are doing a great job in supporting us.”
The final score line of 58-14 somewhat flattered the All Blacks who failed to deliver a solid performance. Some of that may be down to the number of changes in the starting line-up and the stop-start nature of the second half but they will certainly need to up their game for the latter stages.
Captaining the side for the first time Sam Cane said, “To be honest I didn’t see what there was to do out there when the game is stop-start like that. It’s a little bit frustrating because you just want to play some footy.”
The All Blacks next game is against Georgia who will present a step-up in opposition, so with the cobwebs hopefully blown out of the system will the All Black machine click into gear?