Rugby World Cup: Namibian novices no match for All Blacks

11:02 am on 24 September 2015

OPINION: Flanker Sam Cane gets a chance to follow in Paul Henderson's footsteps when he takes over the top job against tournament lightweights Namibia on Friday morning.

Sam Cane scoring a try against Argentina.

Sam Cane scoring a try against Argentina. Photo: AFP

Henderson was the Southland flanker who captained the All Blacks when they racked up their record test score of 145-17 over Japan in 1995, so now Cane gets the same cushy start to his leadership career.

Speaking of Japan, their big upset the other day has led to talk that this game could be a little bit closer than first thought.

Let's get things in perspective here: Japan has a fully professional league packed with experienced international players. Namibia are a bunch of part-timers drawn from a player base around about half the size of the Wellington senior club competition.

There will be live commentary of tomorrow's game at RNZ's Rugby World Cup dedicated section

For those of you who don't know, Namibia is located just the left and above South Africa.

Namibian prop Johannes Redelinghuys.

Namibian prop Johannes Redelinghuys. Photo: AFP

It used to be a German colony, then was taken over by its neighbour in World War One and re-named South West Africa (clearly creativity was not a pre-requisite when naming places in this area).

The All Blacks played there in 1960 and 1970 as part of their tours to South Africa, so technically this match isn't the first time they've met.

Of course, those tours were of old, bad South Africa. Nevertheless, the NZRU saw no problem with practising a bit of apartheid themselves, so the 1960 All Blacks were actually all white.

The 1970 team wasn't much better, with Maori and Polynesian players given ''honorary white'' status. But of course, the NZRU doesn't like to talk about that so it's doubtful you'll hear much about the previous history of these two sides.

Namibia rugby captain Jacques Burger

Namibia rugby captain Jacques Burger Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Namibia gained its political independence in 1990 and competed in their first RWC in 1999. They're currently 0-15 in all RWC matches and that's about to be 16.

The All Blacks have made 13 changes (with Liam Messam being ruled out with injury this morning) to the side that beat Los Pumas on Monday morning, including the entire inside back and centre combinations. Pretty much the whole backline has the incentive of trying to beat Marc Ellis' record of six tries in a game.

(Yes, the same guy from late 90s dudebro TV classics such as Fresh Up In The Deep End and Game Of Two Halves.)

Penalty machine Ben Franks gets a run in the front row so there's a gift three points at least for the Namibians. He's next to Codie Taylor, who gets a Test start for the first time, as well as a re-jigged loose forward trio.

Namibia have one decent player, their captain and flanker Jacques Burger. He plays for English club Saracens and wing David Philander plays right here in NZ for Taranaki club Spotswood United. The rest of them ply their trade in a mixture of French second division teams, lower grade South African sides and local Namibian clubs. So yeah, this team would probably have a hard time getting a win in the ITM Cup.

Players to watch: I'm more than happy to admit that I underestimated the impact Sonny Bill Williams was going to have at this tournament. His near-faultless performance off the bench against the Argies eased more than a few minds, so the thought of what he might do to the Namibians is downright terrifying. Beauden Barrett should find a few gaps to unleash his throwback, upright running game that screams out for the return of long-sleeved jerseys.

Prediction: The one thing that sets the All Blacks apart from the other big boys in world rugby is that they always torch teams that they shouldn't really be playing against, so a repeat of the Bok shock is simply not going to happen. The only thing stopping the All Blacks from racking up three figures is the fact that so much time is wasted in the modern game, they just won't get the chance.

Predicted score: All Blacks 80 Namibia 3

Sonny Bill Williams off-loads in the tackle during the All Blacks' victory over Argentina in the opening round of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Sonny Bill Williams off-loads in the tackle during the All Blacks' victory over Argentina in the opening round of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

How they line up:

All Blacks: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ben Franks. Bench: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Tony Woodcock, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Ma'a Nonu, 23 Ben Smith

Namibia: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 David Philander, 13 JC Greyling, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Conrad Marais, 10 Theuns Kotzè, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Leneve Damens, 7 Tinus du Plessis, 6 Jacques Burger (capt), 5 Pieter-Jan van Lill, 4 Tjiuee Uanivi, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Jaco Engels. Bench: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Casper Viviers, 18 Raoul Larson, 19 Renaldo Bothma, 20 Janco Venter, 21 Rohan Kitshoff, 22 Eneill Buitendag, 23 Chrysander Botha

Olympic Stadium, London

Friday, 25th September (NZT)

7am kickoff

The Benchwarmer's Comment logo

Jamie 'The Benchwarmer' Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the sole highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game to anyone who'll care to listen.

The Benchwarmer's Comment will run throughout the World Cup on radionz.co.nz

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