Samoa kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign with a tricky match against Namibia on Wednesday.
The tenth best side in the World should comfortably start with a win but they will be taking nothing for granted as they take to the pitch on Wednesday afternoon. Their Pool D opponents lost their opening game to Fiji but Johan Diergaardt’s side will be hoping to cause an upset especially considering Samoa are yet to play a match in this year’s tournament.
The last and only time these two countries met in a rugby international was back in 2003 when Samoa ran out 40-13 winners but Namibia have improved since then. They are currently ranked 20th in the IBB rankings and are the lowest ranked team in this year’s rugby fest but that won’t dishearten them as they look for their first World Cup win. Most people don’t know that a few of South Africa’s players actually come from Namibia but if they are good enough they play for the Springboks. Percy Montgomery being the prime example.
There is no doubt that Samoa start the game as firm favourites in this Pool D clash at Rotorua but in their opening game, Namibia showed they have the ability to hold their own against higher ranked teams. They have made three changes from the Fiji match. PJ van Lill comes in at number eight for Jacques Nieuwenhuis who switches to flanker. As a result Tinus du Plessis is dropped from the 22 while winger Conrad Marais is replaced by Llewellyn Winkler. In the other change, Henk Franken earns his first cap at the expense of Nico Esterhuyse.
There is no getting away from the fact that Samoa have a bunch of very talented players. They will be confident of qualifying for the knock out stages therefore victory is a must on Wednesday. They are in a tough group with South Africa, Wales, Fiji and themselves all looking to reach the second round.
Samoa have picked a powerful line-up, yet they can still afford to leave front-rowers Census Johnston and Ti’i Paulo, who are first choice-players at Toulouse and Clermont-Auvergne respectively, on the bench
Players to Watch:
There aren’t many big name players in the Namibia staring fifteen but their captain Jacques Burger is a familiar face to Aviva Premiership fans. The flanker plays for Saracens and is a key player for his country. Bourgoin centre Piet van Zyl is also another to watch but their out half is their key man. Theuns Kotze wrote himself into the record books when he scored 15 points in the match against Fiji last week. This is the highest individual score by a Namibian at a World Cup. Nine of those points came via three drop-goals and he also impressed when attacking the advantage line. Kotze is one of several Namibians who are using the World Cup to showcase their talents with the hope of a foreign club signing them on a professional basis. If he can replicate his form from the Fiji match against Samoa, and for the rest of the pool matches, he could be playing outside Namibia after the World Cup.
There are several Samoans to keep an eye on but look out for left wing Alesana Tuilagi. The Leicester Tigers stalwart is one of the most dangerous backs in the Aviva Premiership with ball in hand. He combines pace and power on attack and is a fearless tackler on defence.
Prediction: Samoa should be too strong for Namibia and they will run out winners by twenty points at least.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesani Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Faasavalu, 6 Taiasina Tuifua, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (capt), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Ofisa Treviranus, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono, 22 Tasesa Lavea.
Namibia: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Danie van Wyk, 12 Piet van Zyl, 11 Llewellyn Winkler, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Pieter Jan van Lill, 7 Jacques Burger (capt), 6 Jacques Nieuwenhuis; 5 Henk Franken, 4 Heinz Koll, 3 Raoul Larson, 2 Hugo Horn, 1 Johnnie Redelinghuys.
Replacements: 16 Bertus O’Callaghan, 17 Jane du Toit, 18 Nico Esterhuyse, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Ryan de la Harpe, 21 Darryl de la Harpe, 22 TC Losper.
Date: Wednesday, September 14
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Kick-off: 15:30 (03:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Jerôme Garces (France)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)