Thursday, July 19, 2012
One of the games of the season played out at an unlikely venue recently, a beautiful land perhaps nowdaways known more for its animated namesake. Madagascar hosted Namibia for the Africa Cup Division 1B title, and the match was a classic.
The following fascinating report from Total Rugby sheds light on a rugby region that it's fair to say, a large majority of us had no idea existed. Former French colony Madagascar, as you will learn below, lives and dies for the sport.
Over 40 000 screeching fans turned out to support their side at the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananaviro, where Senegal edged out Morocco as a curtain raiser for the main event.
With Namibia being the second highest ranked African team, and of course with Rugby World Cup experience in four tournaments, the home side weren't expected to be a massive challenge for the team that were ranked 35 places ahead of them going into the match.
Madagascar shot off to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter which had their fans in raptures. The rest of the game was a see-saw battle and ended with over 100 points scored between the two teams.
"The supporters were fanatical and there was so much noise, you could not hear yourself think. I think that affected our team and the pressure got to them," said Namibia's William Steenkamp.
A final score of 57-54 to the home side means that after losing this Confédération Africaine de Rugby Championship Division 1B match, Namibia now have a lot to do to qualify for the RWC.
They need to win Division 1B next year, to ensure they are part of Division 1A in 2014, when the winner will qualify as Africa 1, and the runner-up will enter the Répechage.
Thanks to Total Rugby for this detailed and dramatic video report of the match. You can also view the Madagascar wardance in it's entirety here.