WINDHOEK, April 19 — The Namibian under-20 rugby team is in high spirits and ready to inspire the next generation, ahead of the Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya from April 22 to 30, the country’s Under 20s Head Rugby Coach & Academy manager Ryan De La Harpe told Xinhua.
Namibia will travel to Kenya on Thursday with 28 players and five staff members for the Barthes Trophy, which is the only junior tournament in Africa, where eight U20 teams compete for the title.
“Preparations have been challenging but very positive. We have had a 10-day camp which has allowed us to grow together as a team. I am very impressed with the boys’ work ethic and desire. We have had great coaches, management, and volunteers who have contributed on and off the pitch to ensure the boys are well looked after and prepared for Kenya,” he told Xinhua Wednesday.
De La Harpe said Namibia’s main focus is on their first game this weekend against Zambia. Namibia is in Pool B alongside the 2022 champions Zimbabwe, as well as Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, while Pool A will feature hosts Kenya, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Zambia.
“In December, we had a five-day alignment camp where 120 players turned up. We had to narrow this number down to 60 in January. Since then, we have been working four or more days a week with the locally-based players. 20 days ago, the squad was narrowed down to 38 (28 travellings, 10 non-travelling), and eight days ago, this group worked extensively each day in preparation for the Barthes Cup,” he added.
According to De La Harpe, the team has been making significant strides.
“There have been very impressive MOPS ‘Moments of Perfection’ during warm-up games against local premier league clubs. Some of our boys are 18, and for them to play against men who have multiple years of experience and have been playing together for years has been a phenomenal sight,” he said.
Namibia last won the trophy in 2018 and last year fell short, losing to Zimbabwe in the final. (Xinhua)