Namibia’s record of appearing in every Rugby World Cup since 1999 will come to an end if they lose to Madagascar in the Rugby Africa Cup on Wednesday.
This year’s edition of the Rugby Africa Cup is doubling up as part of the region’s Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification process.
And Namibia find themselves up against it after a shock 24-13 defeat to Ivory Coast in Abidjan left them bottom of their three-team pool.
Only the top two sides from each of the four pools will make it through to the next phase of qualification in 2022.
Known as the Elephants, Ivory Coast took the match to Namibia from the off and scored tries through back-row duo, Bakary Meite and Paul Diallo Dit Peres, to lead 14-0 after just 12 minutes.
It was a disappointing start to former Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee’s first match in charge, but the Welwitschias finally got a foothold in the game when fly-half Helarius Kisting’s penalty was followed by a try for hooker Obert Nortje.
However, the first half closed with Ivory Coast on top again, with a penalty from Kisting’s opposite number Ezer Kosee and a penalty try giving the hosts a 24-8 half-time lead.
Namibia started the second half down to 14 men thanks to the yellow card picked up by Maharua Katjijeko for his part in the concession of the penalty try.
After a scoreless third quarter, Namibia’s vice-captain Lesley Klim finally broke the deadlock when he scored the Welwitschias’ second try with 10 minutes to go.
But that turned out to be the last points of the match as the Elephants’ defence kept Namibia at bay.
In terms of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings, Ivory Coast’s first victory over Namibia since 1994 was worth two full rating points.
It sees them move up four places to their joint-highest all-time position of 38th, which was last achieved way back in September 2005. Namibia, meanwhile, stay 25th despite the loss of two rating points.
Lions roar home
On a weekend of shock results in the Rugby Africa Cup, Senegal also boosted their Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification hopes with a dramatic 20-19 victory against a higher-ranked Kenyan team.
Outside centre Georges-Pompidou Mendy scored deep into stoppage time to bring Senegal within sight of victory and full-back Saibo Sakho then kept his nerve to slot the winning conversion.
Kenya had never been behind in the game up until the moment the flags behind the posts were raised and referee Saudah Adiru blew his final whistle.
Full-back Jone Kubu contributed 14 points for Kenya from three penalties, a drop goal and the conversion of Darwin Mukidza’s try.
Meanwhile, fly-half Mamadou Ndiaye kicked two first-half penalties for Senegal and converted Demba Kane’s try shortly after the restart to tie the scores at 13-13.
When Senegal lost Mendy to a yellow card approaching the hour mark, Kenya looked favourites to go on and win.
But the Lions only conceded three points while they were down a man, enabling them to stay in touch and give Mendy the opportunity to redeem himself.
The big Senegalese pack threw everything at Kenya who lost second-row Davis Chenge to the sin-bin on the stroke of full-time.
And after some determined goal-line defending, the pressure eventually told and Mendy barged his way over to put Senegal within touching distance of their first win over Kenya.
Sakho made no mistake adding the extra two points required and there were joyous scenes out on the Nyayo National Stadium pitch among the Senegalese as the magnitude of what they had achieved sunk in.
Senegal move up eight places to 46th in the rankings as a result of the win in Nairobi, while Kenya fall three to 35th.
The two Rugby Africa Cup matches were the only ones to count towards Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification following the cancellation of the match between Chile and Colombia due to positive COVID-19 cases within the Tucanes squad.
Chile now advance to the next stage of the Americas qualification process with games against Uruguay and Brazil awaiting Los Cóndores. The triangular series in Montevideo will be played from 11-25 July.
Oaks stand tall
While results in Africa were far from expected, there were no surprise results in the remainder of the fixtures that took place this weekend, although Japan, the USA and Romania all gave very good accounts of themselves against higher-ranked opponents.
Georgia will also take plenty of positives from their 40-9 defeat to world champions South Africa in the first of the weekend’s games in Pretoria on Friday.
Three penalties from Tedo Abzhandadze gave them the lead but the Springboks came good in their first outing since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup to run in six tries.
South Africa stay on top of the rankings on 94.20 points, while Georgia, who were kept scoreless in the second half, remain in 12th.
Romania, who are behind the Lelos in the race to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023, sensed a famous victory could be theirs for the taking against Argentina with the scores tied at 13-13 going into the final 10 minutes.
However, Santiago Cordero got the Pumas out of jail as it was his attack that led to debutant Juan Martín González going over for the all-important try in the 73rd minute.
Japan went down 39-31 to Ireland in Dublin, a result that saw just 0.16 of a point exchanged in the rankings – not enough to alter their respective positions. Ireland stay fourth and Japan are still 10th.
Meanwhile, a first-ever win for the USA against England was never on the cards but the Eagles will take great heart from their 43-29 defeat at Twickenham.
Gary Gold’s side conceded seven tries in their first outing since RWC 2019, but actually ‘won’ the second half, 26-17, after scoring four tries themselves.
The USA face Ireland next weekend before taking on Canada in home-and-away encounters in September which will decide which team has the chance to qualify as Americas 1 and take their place in Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Elsewhere, New Zealand brushed aside Tonga 102-0 and Wales defeated Canada 68-12. Neither result had any impact on the rankings.