Namibia Rugby Union could withdraw from the 2019 Rugby World Cup if the players and 'third forces' derail their campaign, reports The Namibian.
At a press conference on Thursday, Christian Windvogel and Keith Allies of the NRU council, which consists of the presidents and chairmen of rugby clubs in Namibia, issued a statement in which they also warned the players of severe consequences.
“The council hereby wish to express our dissatisfaction with this whole efforts (sic) to, what it seems, derailment of our World Cup campaign (sic) by third forces and, if players so wish, we will during our October extra-ordinary meeting give the NRU board the mandate to officially withdraw our participation from the 2019 World Cup,” it stated.
“We know Ruhan (sic) Kitshoff seems to be the kingpin in this effort of getting players to protest. Protest against what? We also suspect that third forces are behind this,” it added.
Two weeks ago, a Welwitschias Invitation team played with black armbands against a Blue Bulls Invitation team to show their solidarity with Namibia Rugby Limited (NRL) and its high-performance programme, and the council said they could take steps against the players.
Namibia qualified for the World Cup courstey of winning 2018 Africa Gold Cup where they beat Kenya in the last round of matches in August.
Should Namibia withdraw from the World Cup, Kenya Simbas will most likely replace them in pool B of the World Cup that has New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Repechage winner. This would also mean Uganda will replace Kenya in the four-team repechage set for November in France.
“It is very worrisome that while all efforts are underway to resolve the stalemate, our players opted to support the company (NRL), and disregard their respective clubs as members of the NRU.”
“As council members, we know that the has-been and those who already were at a World Cup would like to influence the younger and more inexperienced players for their own agendas. Players who are threatening are busy bringing the game of rugby into disrepute, which they can be disciplined for, according to the constitution…
Players who make threats of stop playing, (sic) are also leaving the so-called player pathway, and might not be allowed to rejoin,” it stated.
According to the statement, the cooperation agreement between the NRU and NRL was signed without their knowledge, and 'nullifies the whole purpose of the NRU as governing body of rugby in Namibia.'
“This whole cooperation agreement is ultra virus (sic) the NRU constitution, as argued by the NRU board, and we strongly agree. We also strongly support the motion which terminated this agreement by the NRU board,” it said.
The problem, however, seems to be that World Rugby will not support anything outside the NRL's high-performance pathway, while their financial support of the programme could now also be in jeopardy. Allies, however, reiterated that this would be in breach of the Sports Act of Namibia.
“Does World Rugby know they are in breach of the Sports Act of Namibia? If they withdraw funds, then it means that they are supporting a system that is not recognised anywhere.
“World Rugby's grant to Namibia is not a privilege, you are entitled to get it if you qualify for the World Cup. If they withhold that, then they are in breach of the Sports Act,” he stressed.
Rohan Kitshoff, meanwhile, said Namibia's withdrawal from the World Cup would have devastating consequences for Namibian rugby. “It's a very sad day for Namibian rugby.
If Namibia withdraws or is kicked out of the 2019 World Cup, the ripple-effects will be felt for years to come,” he added.
-Material derived from The Namibian