Thursday, 31 March 2016

When Namibia beat Ireland

A look back at one of the most startling results in rugby history, when Namibia beat Ireland back in July 1991.

While the result looks totally baffling now, and would be the world's biggest upset if it ever happened again, a few things need to be considered.

Namibia had only gained independence in 1990, and were a young international team at the time, but had experience as 'South West Africa' in the Currie Cup, and played quite a large amount of tests over their first two years.

Also Windhoek is a notoriously challenging and unique place to play. It is basically a high altitude desert dustbowl, and many sides have found it tough.

Namibia playing Kenya at Windhoek in 2015
Most top sides would still expect to win there easily of course, especially if they have prepared well and taken time to adapt to the altitude, but the disparity in results Namibia achieve there compared to elsewhere is notable.

Just take Kenya for example, in 2014 Namibia nearly were knocked out of RWC 2015 losing 29-22 to them, but when they met them in Windhoek in 2013 and 2015, the put 55 and 46 points on them.

Likewise their RWC warm ups against Russia last year, they beat an ill prepared Bears side 45-5 in Windhoek, just a month after a woeful Nations Cup campaign which rounded off with a 20-3 defeat to Spain.

Namibia went 6 years unbeaten at home between 2003-2009 (albeit only against African sides), whilst outside Windhoek over that period they lost to all of Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Uganda and drew to Ivory Coast.

Going back to the early 1990's, they got a few big visitors to Windhoek, none of whom were getting the wins you would tend to expect in this fixture. Wales only won 34-30, France only won 25-21, whilst Namibia beat Italy twice 17-7 and 33-9.
Ticket from Namibia's historic win over
Ireland back in 1991

Results that good for Namibia seem a stretch now even in Windhoek though, and that's because they also should be remembered in the context of the amateur era.

We have seen more amateur Tier 3 sides come to Windhoek with about 3 days to adapt to altitude and do disastrously worse than they would ordinarily, and that is partly because of a lack of proper acclimatisation to the conditions.

Such amateur era tales, and the sheer fact no decently ranked sides ever visit Windhoek at all any more, means the chances of any repeat shock results for Namibia are basically nil. But anyway, here is some old footage of the full first test from July 1991, where the Namibians triumphed 15-6 for their most famous ever win.

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