Fiji 49 Namibia 25

Fiji warmed up for their date with the world champions by putting the dropkicking Namibians in their place in Rotorua.

If ever Fiji needed a reminder of what they will face against South Africa in Wellington on Saturday night, it came early on in the match at International Stadium when Namibian No 10 Theuns Kotze went on a drop goal spree.

In a clash between two opposite rugby philosophies, Fiji started the match as they meant to go on, in typical freewheeling manner, while Kotze kept them at bay by landing one huge penalty goal followed by a trio of drop goals.


By the end of the match, though, the Namibians had joined the party, showing there is an attacking bent to their game, although they didn't have the speed or outright skill to threaten an upset.

In brilliant sunshine, and a rip-roaring atmosphere, Fiji wing Vereniki Goneva emerged as a four-try hero and Seremaia Bai put on a superb goalkicking performance for a 19-point haul.

Against a mountain backdrop and houses so close that the neighbours got a free view of the spectacle, Goneva had his third by half time when he ran around stranded prop Raoul Larson just before the break. He added his last 10 minutes into the second spell after a run from centre Gaby Lovobalavu.

Afterwards, he quietly thanked the many Fijian fans for their support, and almost whispered that he had never scored four tries in a match before.

Namibia, whose captain Jacques Burger bravely threw himself into everything, were never going to match the Fijians for flair, but they actually had a go - which went some way to proving they might be worth their continuing World Cup status. In their fourth tournament, they have never come close to victory, but this was their finest hour so far.

Fiji are in a tough contest alongside South Africa, Wales and Samoa in Pool D. Captain Deacon Manu, the former Waikato and Chiefs stalwart now playing in Wales, wasn't exactly promising an upset against South Africa, and could best be described as cautiously hopeful.

"We take a lot of confidence from the time we played them in 2007," said Manu, of that 37-20 World Cup defeat. "We look at that game as the pinnacle of Fiji rugby but we have no illusions. South Africa showed in the Tri Nations that they will do anything to win - through drop goals or penalties. They will also have a lot of supporters in Wellington.

"Our country is just a little blip in the ocean and they are the world champions."

Namibia's Burger reckoned Fiji were in the hunt: "It will be a very interesting game. They definitely stand a chance - but they will have to be clinical and tough," said the wild-haired flanker who believed (if they could get some parity in scrums and lineouts), Fiji would worry the world champions. They might also worry South Africa if replacement forward Akapusi Qera has anything to do with it.

He ironed out Kotze with a smashing tackle in the final minutes, forcing the drop goal ace to be escorted from the field. In a game of tremendous spirit, Qera and Goneva both wandered over to check on the health of Kotze as he lay sprawled in a mixture of sunshine and shadows.

The curtain then came down on a wonderful afternoon of almost old-fashioned, helter-skelter rugby. A very different atmosphere will await Fiji in Wellington on Saturday night.

Fiji 49 (V. Goneva 4, L. Nakarawa, N. Nalaga tries, S. Bai 5 cons, 3 pens), Namibia 25 (H. Koll, C. Botha tries, T. Kotze 2 pens, 3 drop goals). Halftime: 32-15.