Namibian rugby finds strength in the dunes of Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay is renowned for the abundance of its wildlife. Whales bask offshore while flamingos, pelicans and Damara terns all shelter in the tidal lagoon.
Look closely of an evening in the dunes, just as the sun is setting, and you may also catch a glimpse of Namibia’s future rugby stars practicing their drills.
Namibia became independent in 1960 but its long association with neighboring South Africa means that rugby has been infused into the nation’s sporting DNA.
Kudu Rugby Club is just one that caters for all levels.
It was founded in 1961 by a group of workers watching the kudus — the local name for antelopes — during their travels by train from Cape Town to Walvis Bay: it now has over 120 registered players.
The men’s first team plays in the NRU Premier League and includes some top players like current international Chad Plato and 22-year-old Giovanni Izaaks who puts in three to six hours of training a day in a bid to reach the top level.
“My dreams are to work my way up to being a professional rugby player,” says Izaaks who also coaches the Under-11 boys’ team.
“I want to play for the national 15 and national sevens squads. After I retire I want to coach to give back and help boys who don’t have the necessary help or facilities.”
This year the Kudus have reached the national semi-finals in Windhoek on August 19 where they will face Trustco United. Kudus have never won the title but they believe this will be their year.
The reserve team has also made it through to the semis as has their women’s team who will face off against Wanderers Bokkies.
Even if Plato fails to make the final squad for the World Cup, Kudus will be represented in France by the presence of Chrysander Botha, assistant to coach Allister Coetzee who used to be in charge of the Springboks.
Botha left Walvis Bay for a professional playing career in South Africa and England, where he turned out for Exeter.
The Welwitschias are into their seventh successive World Cup but have the unenviable record of never having won a pool match.
They haven’t lost all 22, however. Four years ago the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan led to the cancellation of their match against Canada, technically marked down as a 0-0 draw.
The closest they came to victory was in 2015 when they were edged 16-17 by Georgia. It was a long way from the 142-0 thrashing they collected from Australia in 2003.
They met New Zealand in 2019 when they were once more on the end of a hammering, this time 71-9 — but they did have the small consolation of leading the All Blacks by putting the first points on the board that day.
Uruguay is their most realistic chance of picking up a maiden victory this time around as they are in Pool A alongside Italy, hosts France and, yes, New Zealand once again.
++ Ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France, Agence France-Presse asked 20 aspiring photographers from each country qualified for the competition to show one aspect of the rugby union culture in their homeland, with the help of Canon cameras who are sponsoring the tournament. From Namibia to Fiji via Georgia and Scotland this photo essay gives us a glimpse of the core values of rugby on five continents.
©️ Agence France-Presse