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Mixed emotions for Milton Haig after Georgia's win


Milton Haig's Georgia won on Wednesday

Milton Haig's Georgia won on Wednesday

Milton Haig's Georgia won on Wednesday

Georgia head coach Milton Haig felt his side had scaled Everest after beating Namibia to all but qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup.

If defending champions New Zealand beat Tonga in Newcastle on Friday, Georgia will qualify automatically for the next tournament in Japan by finishing third in Pool C after their 17-16 win at Sandy Park in Exeter.

Haig felt mixed emotions afterwards as Georgia had almost claimed defeat from the jaws of victory in a scrappy performance.

"It was pretty surreal," Haig said.

"We were all pretty disappointed about how we played the game, because we made it very hard for ourselves.

"We were sitting there thinking 'golly gosh, we've won this'. It wasn't the elation you'd normally expect but once it sunk in, it's a little bit like Sir Edmund (Hillary) knocking off Everest - we've finally done it.

"It's taking a bit of time for it to sink in. It's not over yet, but we've done our part and we'll celebrate accordingly.

"We'll be pretty bloody disappointed if Tonga turned the All Blacks over."

Theuns Kotze kicked two penalties to give Namibia a half-time lead - their first in 18 World Cup matches - and added a second-half penalty, try and touchline conversion to set up a frantic finale.

But Georgia held on for a triumph built on forward supremacy.

Who knows how things might have been different had skipper Jacques Burger not departed injured inside the first 10 minutes or if Namibia had not had three players sin-binned.

Georgia, who were denied two tries in a first half which took over an hour to complete, made the breakthrough through their own talisman Mamuka Gorgodze.

Lasha Malaghuradze added a second and Merab Kvirikashvili kicked seven points as the Lelos prevailed.

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Georgia came close to falling off a precipice.

"It was one of those really ugly games, but we still managed to win it," added Haig, a New Zealander who expects his compatriots to prevail and help Georgia.

"Whether you create history with a one-point win or a 20-point win, it doesn't really matter.

"Today that's what we've managed to do for Georgian rugby. I'm very proud of being part of that process."

Haig wants Georgia to grasp their promotion to automatic qualifiers and hopes for regular competition with leading nations.

"If we don't take this opportunity with both hands we're mugs, really," he said.

Namibia, for whom flanker Tinus du Plessis and number eight Renaldo Bothma were immense, complete their tournament against Argentina in Leicester on Sunday, after claiming a first World Cup point with a losing bonus.

Head coach Phil Davies said: "I'm immensely proud really. We said before the game we wanted the players to play with emotion and a real performance from the heart.

"I thought they were magnificent. It was tough at times. Indiscipline cost us, in terms of yellow cards.

"To come back like we did towards the end and nearly snatch a victory was amazing.

"So proud of the players. It's a first World Cup point. It was a good night for us, although we were disappointed not to get a result in the end.

"Great credit to Georgia. They've had a marvellous tournament. They're a big powerful team and they played well."

Burger hopes to be fit to play the Pumas after departing as a precaution following a blow to the head.

"Hopefully I can pass all my tests, do all the protocol stuff and be ready for the next match," the Saracens flanker said.

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