A week following their 27-13 loss to France in the tournament’s opening match at Stade de France, the All Blacks are eager to make a statement against Namibia in Toulouse on Friday. This encounter marks the third meeting between the two teams in Rugby World Cups.
Coach Ian Foster has implemented nine changes to New Zealand’s starting lineup for their second match of the tournament. However, familiar faces like Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett, and Anton Lienert-Brown retain their positions.
Namibia kicked off their Rugby World Cup 2023 campaign with a 52-8 defeat against Italy in Saint-Étienne, an experience that their captain, Johan Deysel, described as a valuable learning opportunity.
How much Namibia has gleaned from their encounter in eastern France will be put to the test on Friday night in the south-western region of the country. Both teams can take solace in the fact that the weather in Toulouse on Thursday night is expected to be significantly cooler compared to their previous outings on French soil.
Fixture: New Zealand vs. Namibia
Venue: Stadium de Toulouse (Capacity: 33,103)
Kick-Off: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
This encounter marks the third instance in as many Rugby World Cups that New Zealand and Namibia have faced off in the pool phase. On both prior occasions, the All Blacks emerged victorious with comfortable margins—58-14 at London’s Olympic Stadium in 2015 and 71-9 at Tokyo Stadium four years ago.
In their 2015 encounter, New Zealand scored nine tries against Namibia, securing a 58-14 win on their path to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. However, it was not the All Blacks’ dominance that left a lasting impression, but rather Johan Deysel’s second-half try for Namibia. This moment came after an organized and determined Namibian side, which caused New Zealand more trouble than the final score indicated, opted to chase glory instead of taking a simple kick at goal.
Key Talking Point:
The primary discussion surrounding New Zealand continues to revolve around their historic pool phase defeat against France in the tournament opener, ending their streak of 31 consecutive pool wins at Rugby World Cups. Anticipation is high for New Zealand to rebound with a commanding victory, but all eyes will be on their performance.
A notable individual matchup to watch is Damian McKenzie versus Tiaan Swanepoel. While McKenzie boasts 43 caps, this will be his first World Cup start, having missed RWC 2019 due to an ankle injury. Swanepoel, on the other hand, has substantial experience in the 10 shirt and possesses a formidable kicking ability, making him a valuable asset for Namibia with his impressive 583 meters gained from 16 kicks against Italy.
Sam Whitelock is on the cusp of equalling Richie McCaw as the most capped All Black in test history as he prepares for his 148th match. Only Alun Wyn Jones, with 171 caps, has more international appearances. This match also marks Whitelock’s 21st Rugby World Cup appearance, putting him one game behind the joint record holders McCaw and England’s Jason Leonard. Additionally, Whitelock played in both previous meetings between the All Blacks and Namibia, and he has scored one of his seven international tries against them.
The match will be officiated by Luke Pearce from England, who became the youngest referee to be promoted to the English RFU’s National panel back in 2009.
Beauden Barrett; Caleb Clarke, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku; Damian McKenzie, Cam Roigard; Ofa Tuungafasi, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea (captain)
Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Fletcher Newell, Scott Barrett, Tupou Vaa’i, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Rieko Ioane
Cliven Loubser; Gerswin Mouton, Johan Deysel (captain), Le Roux Malan, Divan Rossouw; Tiaan Swanepoel, Damian Stevens; Jason Benade, Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee; Johan Retief, Tjiuee Uanivi; Wian Conradie, Prince Gaoseb, Richard Hardwick
Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Desiderius Sethie, Haitembu Shifuka, PJ Van Lill, Adriaan Booysen, Max Katjijeko, Jacques Theron, JC Greyling