Namibia’s national rugby team, the Welwitschias, threw away a 20-12 halftime lead to lose 32-26 to Uruguay in their final 2023 Rugby World Cup match at the OL Stadium on Wednesday.
The Welwitschias came out guns blazing and scored one of the fastest World Cup tries inside the first minute through inform winger Gerswin Mouton, who was gifted a loose ball from a Uruguayan lineout to sprint almost the length of the field and dive under the post to put Namibia in the lead.
Flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel converted to put Namibia 7-0 up early in the game.
Fellow winger JC Greyling joined the party to score his first try of the tournament, and Swanepoel made it 14-0.
However, Uruguay regrouped and replied with two tries to tie the match 14-all before Swanepoel converted three successive penalties and put the Welwitschias on course to their first ever victory at the World Cup finals.
Halftime score: Namibia 20-12 Uruguay
The second half started off well for the Namibians, as Swanepoel added three more points within two minutes of resumption as the Welwitschias stretched their lead to 23-12 before calamity struck.
Uruguay then piled on the pressure and forced a number of penalty fouls, which led to prop Johan Coetzee getting sin-binned in the 48th minute.
Uruguay made it count as they scored two tries to take a 20-26 lead, as Namibia struggled with 14 men.
As soon as Coetzee was back, captain Tjiuee Uanivi was sent to the stands for 10 minutes for a high tackle before replacement prop Desiderius Sethie followed him for a yellow card, which was later upgraded to red via the bunker review.
Uruguay added three more tries, while Swanepoel scored two more penalties as the former sealed a well-deserved and convincing 36-26 victory.
Speaking after the match, Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said he was proud of how the team performed, saying the players left everything on the field.
“We lost the game, but I am very proud of the boys. I know they left it all out there. Apart from the discipline issue, I am super proud of them. Uruguay took control of the game, but that is test-match rugby. When you concede 12 penalties and three cards, it is very difficult. That starts at set-piece and scrum time. These are things that cost you in test rugby. There is nothing you can do; you can’t hide about it if you are not up to it. But I must commend the team for playing until the end. Defensively, there were errors in technique in being too upright,” he said.
Coetzee conceded that Uruguay deserved to win, and defeat was a bitter pill to swallow as Namibia continues its quest to record their first ever victory at the World Cup finals.