Rugby World Cup Match Report - Fiji 49 - 25 Namibia


Fiji, as expected, got off to a winning start against Pool D's wooden spoon favourites Namibia in comfortable if unspectacular fashion.

First Half
In sun-soaked Rotorua it was supposed whipping boys Namibia who scored the first points of the match, with the enormous boot of fly-half Theuns Kotze notching an impressive kick from some 56m after Fiji had conceded a penalty in what they must have considered safe territory.

Kotze followed this up with three drop-goals in quick succession, echoing Jannie de Beer's quarter final efforts for South Africa against England in 1995, although not before Fiji had scored the game's first try through the lethal Vereniki Goneva. After a good kick had pinned the Namibians back in their 22, not even the quality of Jacques Burger at the breakdown could prevent Fiji from quickly turning the ball over, and with numbers out wide Goneva had an easy run in.

Following Kotze's drop-goal hat-trick and a penalty from Fijian centre Seremaia Bai the Pacific Island side retook the lead thanks to a try from lock Leone Nakawara; again Fiji's superior work at the breakdown meant that there was a huge overlap for the big second row to stroll over.

Nakawara had a hand in the third try, as he made ground after Namibia failed to gather Nemia Kenatale Ranuku's box kick, and offloaded well for Goneva to run in his second. Bai was unsuccessful with the conversion from wide on the right “ the first miss of the day on either side “ however he soon made amends by knocking over a straightforward penalty after Namibia went offside at a ruck, and at 25-12 the game was already threatening to turn into the expected rout.

Fortunately for the sake of the game as a contest Namibia then started to show a little more attacking prowess, but their lower skill set showed as they spurned a lot of promising work with silly errors. Four minutes before the break they earned some reward for their hard work as Fiji came in at the side of a rick and the impressive Kotze landed a relatively short-range penalty from 35m out wide. Their cheer was short-lived however as Goneva completed his hat-trick from with the last play of the half, burning off two defenders from inside the 22 after Jacques Burger had lost a line-out.

Second Half
After an exciting first half from the south sea islanders it was Namibia who scored the first try of the second half, as centre Danie van Wyk and winger Conrad Marais combined well to break, creating a chance for lock Heinz Koll to break through some weak tackling and score. Unfortunately for the Africans this was soon cancelled out as Gaby Lovobalavu made a strong break and offloaded for Goneva to complete his scoring for the day with an impressive fourth try, Bai adding the extras.

Fiji's inability to kill their opponents off meant that they would have been given a scare in the 57th minute as full-back Chrysander Botha danced through yet more weak tackling inside the 22 and went over in the corner. Kotze again failed to add the conversion, leaving them 14 points adrift.

Thereafter the quality of the game descended markedly, with few scoring opportunities punctuated by a number of errors on both sides. Namibia refused to roll over, with captain Burger epitomising an attritional approach, not dissimilar to that often seen at his club Saracens. Of course Fiji have enough quality about them to ensure that a shock comeback was never really on the cards, and Bai killed the game off with a penalty six minutes from the end to take Fiji past the 40-point mark.

There was still time for one more score, as three minutes later the Pacific Islanders kicked a penalty to the corner. Although the pack was driven backwards after winning the lineout, the fearsome former Clermont Auvergne winger Napolioni Nalanga powered over his opposing number to score in the hitherto underused left hand corner, Bai adding the extras to complete the day's scoring and leave the final score Fiji 49-25 Namibia.

Namibia came out of the game in credit; they were tough as befitting a side led by Jacques Burger, and both fly half Kotze and centre van Wyk showed a level of skill that didn't look out of place at international level.

Fiji on the other hand were slightly disappointing: their scrum was weak and they will not be happy to have allowed the minnows their highest ever World Cup score. They were lethal when it came to finishing and took just about every chance that came their way, however they will have to be vastly improved against Wales in order to create enough chances to repeat their success of four years ago.

Man of the Match Vereniki Goneva

Referee Nigel Owens (WAL)

Fiji: Murimurivalu, Goneva, Lovobalavu, Bai, Nalaga, Luveniyali, Kental, Ma'afu, Veikoso, Manu, Nakarawa, Lewaravu, Waqaniburotu, Ravulo, Talei.

Replacements: Keresoni for Murimurivalu (54), Vulivuli for Lovobalavu (67), Buatava for Kental (58), Daveta for Ma'afu (64), Koto Koto for Veikoso (50), Kalou for Lewaravu (74), Qera for Talei (55).

Namibia: Botha, Dames, D. van Wyk, van Zyl, Marais, Kotze, Jantjies, Redelinghuys, Horn, Larson, Koll, Esterhuyse, Du Plessis, Burger, Nieuwenhuis.

Replacements: D. de la Harpe for Marais (69), Winkler for Kotze (78), R. de la Harpe for Jantjies (69), O'Callerghan for Horn (53), van Lill for Esterhuyse (53), Kitshoff for Du Plessis (47).