Sunday, February 6, 2011

Corruption in Namibia further supports South American Rugby World Cup Qualification

The IRB´s Head of Development and Performance, Mark Egan, has confirmed that the IRB has opened an investigation against the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) following accusations of corruption and financial problems. One of the concerns pointed out by Egan is that the country simply does not have sufficient funds to pay for the costs of playing at the Rugby World Cup which will take place in September and October in New Zealand. Large amounts of money, over US$500,000, have been unaccounted for and the IRB are even looking at taking over the management and operation of the Namibia Rugby Union.

Namibia will compete at the highest level of Rugby for the fourth consecutive time as the team won the African section of Rugby World Cup qualification. Namibia´s qualification means Africa will have two teams at New Zealand 2011 which maintains the status quo that has existed since Rugby World Cup 1995 when South Africa returned after being prohibited from participating due to the countries apartheid government. Africa has had two spots in Rugby World Cup´s since 1995 but no African team other than South Africa has been able to win a match at a Rugby World Cup ever. Zimbabwe participated in Rugby World Cup 1987 and 1991 and were winless. Cote d´Ivoire (Ivory Coast) participated in 1995 and were winless and Namibia competed in Rugby World Cup 1999, 2003 and 2007 and were winless on all three occassions. The IRB giving Africa an automatic qualification spot is therefore highly problematic and questionable. There is no grounds on ability to justify Africa recieving an automatic spot.

The extent of the controversy can be seen by looking at Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2003 in which South America had two participants following the qualification of Uruguay. The South American country won a match at both tournaments but South America did not have automatic qualification and to this day CONSUR is the only region in the World which does not see its champion advance to the Rugby World Cup. Uruguay missed out on France 2007 after losing by one point to Portugal on aggregate and missed out on New Zealand 2011 after losing to Romania who have competed at every Rugby World Cup and won pool matches against Fiji, Namibia, Portugal the USA and Zimbabwe. Namibia, on the other hand, qualified after defeating African teams ranked far lower.

Uruguay ranked 20th had to knock over sides who are today ranked 14th, 16th and 19th in the World. Namibia in contrast qualified after defeating teams ranked 35th, 45th, 49th and 55th in the World. Uruguay had to defeat teams loaded with Rugby World Cup experience from other continents such as Canada, the USA and Romania while Namibia knocked over African sides including Cote d´Ivoire, Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. The IRB have some explaining to do as the IRB´s own system of rankings show that the qualification system is not only wrong but highly controversial. The corruption scandal with the NRU begs the question of whether Namibia should play in the tournament at all. Uruguay with a clean record and higher IRB ranking could certainly fill the void. 


  1. Very interesting Paul...It is really an injustice that the Southamericans countries has only one representative in the RWC 2011, having in consideration the previous performances of Uruguay and Namibia. By it, and other reasons that you know, I feel that the qualifying system must be changed.

  2. The point of the world is to promote rugby on all continents. If African teams do not get exposed to top level competition, they will not develop. And their development and participation is in the best interests of global rugby. If you exclude Africa, you exclude nearly 1 billion potential TV viewers from the world cup. Its the reasons Italy were invited to play the 6 nations.

  3. Fear point but by your logic Samoa and Tonga should not be at the Rugby World Cup because of their populations of 193,000 and 105,000.
    Furthermore Namibia has a population of 2,147,000 and Uruguay 3,308,000.

    Africa deserve a place as much as South America do. Not less, not more but the same equal opportunity. The only way to justify Africa getting a place is for it to be done equally and thus the IRB must choose to either expand to have more teams at future World Cup´s or to give Africa a comparable qualifying schedule as others.

  4. Replying to the anonymous post, exactly the same arguments apply to South America as Africa. Exposure to high level competition, focus on development, excluded tv viewers...

    The way Brazil are improving year-on-year, these three arguments may well swing the decision to having an automatic South American qualifier in time.