Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Minnows Namibia prepare to give their all

Namibia's Hakkie Husselman is the youngest of all the World Cup coaches and the one with the biggest mountain to climb.

The 34-year-old played in three games for the African side at the 2003 tournament in Australia and scored a try against Argentina.

And although Husselman has nine of his former team-mates from that campaign still in the Namibia squad, he is blunt about his side's hopes of making an impression in the pool of death against heavyweights France, Argentina and Ireland.

When asked about the huge gulf in class that now exists between the professional game and his largely amateur squad, Husselman said: "It would be the same as asking me to play at Wimbledon against Roger Federer."

That is not to suggest that Husselman or his squad are quitters, resigned to the fate that would expect to befall the lowest ranked (24th) side in the tournament.

Their preparations for Sunday's opener against Ireland have not been ideal in their base in Marseilles but Husselman remains upbeat.

"We are a little bit outside Marseille and our two training sessions mean we have to travel three hours a day as the gym and field are 40 minutes away from our hotel," said Husselman.

"Players get tired of the travelling and get down a bit, but the training has been good. There were a few obstacles here and there, but we are trying to sort them out."

Not surprisingly, in light of their 105-13 defeat to South Africa last month in Cape Town, the emphasis in training has been on defence.

" Because we are a tier-three nation we won't get as much ball possession against the big sides," he added. "Against the Springboks it was split 30-70 per cent and of that we kicked 10 per cent away.

" We need to get organised and have a good system in place and hopefully get some turnover ball."

Husselman will look for inspiration from their captain Kees Lensing, the former Leeds Tykes prop.

"The guys look up to me and expect things from me," admitted Lensing. " I can teach them what I've learned at a higher class. Sometimes it's frustrating when players can't do what those I am used to playing with do.

"I am very proud to play for my country and to captain it. It is still my country even though I live in South Africa. My parents still live and farm there and I am proud to be Namibian captain.

"This is the third time we've qualified but we've never won a game at a world cup. Since the start of our preparations in Romania we have said we need to win and break the drought. We want to beat Georgia but we will give our all against Ireland.

"They young guys know if they can put on a good show and play well then they could have the chance to play in Europe.

"Some guys made their mark in Romania and have signed for teams there. If they can play well it will open the door for them."

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