It’s not only the Springboks who boast a healthy list of Varsity Cup graduates heading to the Rugby World Cup, as the Namibian squad shows.
Namibia are in Pool B for the tournament in Japan* alongside defending champions New Zealand, neighbours South Africa, Italy and Canada and will be seeking to end a 19-defeat World Cup run since debuting 20 years ago.
Up to 13 former Varsity Cup players will hope to play their role in doing so. Among them are the likes of hooker Louis ‘Chucky’ van der Westhuizen and prop Nelius Theron who played in this year’s tournament, when they reached the semi-finals.
The link between Namibia and NWU has been strong for many years, and is highlighted by the fact that three other players heading to Japan have swotted and played at the Potchefstroom campus. They are Johannes ‘Aranos’ Coetzee (2010), new captain Johan Deysel (2013-16) and Wian Conradie, who moved across from UJ in 2019 after four years in orange. Wing PJ Walters, meanwhile, was a predecessor of Conradie’s at UJ having played there in 2014.
The university spread of the rest of the Namibian former student-athletes is rather even. Torsten van Jaarsveld played for Tuks in the inaugural Varsity Cup in 2008 while Cliven Loubser did so last year; Thomasau Forbes (2013) and Justin Newman (2017) turned out for Madibaz; Maties lay claim to AJ de Klerk (2015) and Janco Venter (2015-16) and Damian Stevens is the lone former Varsity Shield’er having played scrumhalf for UWC back in 2015.
Stevens (Boland Cavaliers), Theron (Leopards) – who is still completing his Coaching Studies degree – and Coetzee (Cheetahs) are the lone SA-based players of the 13. Former Cheetah Van Jaarsveld and erstwhile Sharks centre Deysel now play in France, while Venter is based in the The Channel Islands, playing for Jersey Reds.
The Welwitschias, who represented Namibia in a second-tier SuperSport Rugby Challenge this year, provide the bulk of the overall squad with 20 players – including seven of the ‘graduates’.
Former Wales international Phil Davies coaches Namibia, having taken charge just before the 2015 Rugby World Cup – which Conradie, Coetzee, van der Westhuizen, van Jaarsveld, de Klerk, Venter, Stevens and Deysel all played in.
Namibia Rugby World Cup squad:
Forwards (18): André Rademeyer, Nelius Theron, Desiderius Sethie, AJ de Klerk, Johannes ‘Aranos’ Coetzee, Obert Nortje, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Tjiuee Uanivi, Johan Retief, Thomasau Forbes, Rohan Kitshoff, Max Katjijeko, Prince !Gaoseb, Wian Conradie, PJ van Lill, Adriaan Booysen, Janco Venter.
Backs (13): Cliven Loubser, Helarius Kisting, Damian Stevens, Eugene Jantjies, Darryl de la Harpe, Johan Deysel (captain), Justin Newman, JC Greyling, Johann Tromp, Chad Plato, Lesley Klim, Janry du Toit, PJ Walters.
*Hosts Japan have named Wimpie van der Walt (a non-playing member of Maties in 2010) and Lappies Labuschagne (Shimlas 2009-12) in their squad.