South Africa-Namibia, so close, so far

Between neighbors in South Africa and Namibia, relations with rugby are tense. ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP

This is the match between the two African countries of the competition. Two countries that have long formed one in the last century, until Namibia finally achieved independence from South Africa, one day in March 1990. Neighboring nations find themselves in neutral ground for their second match of the Mondial in Japan, Saturday, September 28, in the city of Toyota.

Until then, their only World Cup showdown had been freewheeling: 87-0 for South Africans in 2011. This statistic is to say that Namibian "Weltwischias" – nickname taken from a desert plant – remain still very far from the international fine flower. And so "Springboks" (nicknamed them, according to antelopes), who are already galloping with two world titles.

What to predict a new match of "David against Goliath", to resume the biblical cliche by which The Namibian present the upcoming meeting. The main English-language daily in Namibia insists on sports imbalance, without going back to geopolitical history. In 1985, journalists created this title in support of the struggle for independence. But also to bring to light "The atrocities of the apartheid regime" set up by South Africa, explains Gwen Lister, her co-founder.

In the same prison as Mandela

Today, in both countries, the two parties in power come from the struggle against the segregationist regime: in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC); in Namibia, the South-West African People's Organization (Swapo), a socialist-inspired movement that also fought for arms (1966-1688) for independence, with the support of Angola and Cuban soldiers .

"The historic leader of SWAPO, Toivo ya Toivo, has been jailed for sixteen years with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island", reminds World Benoît Dupin, lecturer at Sciences Po Bordeaux on South Africa and Southern Africa. "Politically, since independence and the end of apartheid, the two countries have cordial relations", says Raphael Porteilla, also specialized on this issue, and lecturer in political science at the University of Burgundy. "Relationships without more, He continues, but without clashes either »

Until the first world war, Namibia still belonged to the German Empire, which massacred populations there. Then the territory was considered the fifth province in South Africa ", explains Raphael Porteilla. This "Period of domination of South Africa has allowed Afrikaners to settle in Namibia, including farmers, traders "Recalls Benoît Dupin.

In the Durban "Sharks"

Part of the Namibian selection is still speaking Afrikaans now, like that of South Africa. "For us, it's difficult, because Namibia is a small country, we do not have many inhabitants", recalls Casper Viviers, pillar of Suresnes, semi-professional French third division, but also – it is not invented – part-time mover. Present at the 2015 World Cup, the player was not selected for the current edition, even though he participated in the summer preparation camp.

In fact, Namibia is sparsely populated. One of the least dense countries on the planet: just 2.5 million inhabitants in a territory even larger than France. "My parents have a farm of 6,000 hectares, figure Casper Viviers. OYou can raise cows and sheep, you can also grow cereals … " Continuation of the inventory: "Namibia imports a lot of products from South Africa, like vegetables, but the country has its own meat. He is able to export and produce it. "

Rugby is also part of bilateral relations. This summer, it was at the Durban Sharks that Namibian internationals trained for a week. "For five years I have been in Namibia, South Africans are fantastic with us, I can not say better," assured the Namibian coach of Namibia, Phil Davies, to Reuters. Another example: four years ago, the latter had received the advice of Heyneke Meyer, then coach of the "Boks".

Attention, little semantic subtlety: the "Weltwischias" do not only designate the national team. The nickname is also valid for the main club of the country. A club located in Windhoek, the capital, but engaged in South African competitions. In 2016, he played the prestigious Currie Cup. And now, the Rugby Challenge, equivalent of the second division in South Africa … where the Namibians finished this year in the seventh and last place of their group.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here