TOKYO – Smaller nations will always struggle against the game’s heavyweights unless they played them more regularly, Namibia coach Phil Davies said after his side’s 71-9 mauling by world champions New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
Namibia have played three tier-one nations so far at this World Cup – Italy, South Africa and New Zealand – losing all three matches by a total of 175 conceded to just 34 scored.
Against the tier-one nations in their pool, Namibia and fellow minnows Canada – who play each other in their last group match – have conceded an average of 57 points.
Sunday was the first time that Namibia, who include just 11 professional players in their 31-man squad, have played a tier-one nation since facing Argentina at the last World Cup four years ago.
“It is a case of getting enough infrastructure in place and then keep building and try and play more competitive rugby,” said Davies, who has been in charge since 2015.
“We very rarely play the tier-one teams between World Cups and that is a work on I suppose for everyone involved.”
“It comes down to consistency of preparation. We have a good culture but we need a cohesive system over a long period of time, maybe a couple of generations, to get to the level where we can actually compete.”
After Uruguay, Namibia have the second youngest squad in the competition and Davies hoped that the experience of facing the top nations at the World Cup would serve the Africans going forward.
“We have a lot of amateur players and we don’t have a professional league in the country,” said Davies.
“What I think what we have been able to do that other (previous Namibian) teams haven’t is to have four years of consistent preparation.
“We have a younger group of players – I think this is the youngest (Namibian) squad to ever come to a World Cup – and we are more prepared.”
For the players, sharing the field with the mighty All Blacks was not just about representing their country.
“For us it is a really big opportunity and a really big experience to play them and learn from them, see all the skills they do, their running lines and the details in the ruck,” said Namibia captain Johan Deysel.
“These are things we can learn and take into our game.”
New Zealand boss Steve Hansen praised the opposition’s spirit but said that unless Namibia retained their top young talent they would always be struggling – while also taking a shot at World Cup rivals England.
“No doubt there will be some talented young kids in that country that want to play the game and for them to become a greater force then they need to make sure that talent is grown and given the opportunity,” said Hansen.
“It is a tough economic part of the world so I would imagine anybody that is a pretty good player may move to South Africa or even to the northern hemisphere clubs and they seem to make it very difficult for players to come and play for any team other than England.”