By DAVID LEGGAT
Namibia's preparations for their second tilt at the Cup have been ripped apart by internal ructions which have their coach, New Zealander Dave Waterston, close to the action.
Four players were withdrawn from the squad last week - prop Jane du Toit, hooker Hugo Horn, lock Johannes Theron and fullback Lean van Dyk - after they decided they did not want to be part of the campaign.
Waterston, who guided Tonga at the 1999 Cup, got into early strife on the thorny issue of whether home-based players only should be chosen, or whether those who ply their trade across the border in South Africa should be eligible.
The four have been replaced, but as with the vast bulk of the squad, the names are just that: little is known of the players, but plenty can be assumed about their prospects.
Formerly South-West Africa, Namibia's national union was founded only in 1990, the year of its independence from South Africa.
Bitter disappointment at missing out on the 1995 tournament to Ivory Coast was followed by a last-minute win over arch-rivals Zimbabwe in Harare which got them to the 1999 event.
They lost heavily to Fiji and Canada but improbably pushed the French hard before losing 35-13.
This time round they qualified with wins over Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Tunisia, the only upset coming in the final game against the Tunisians in Tunis.
It turned out to be a tight squeeze for the Namibians, who had won the home game 26-19 in Windhoek and needed to win, draw or lose by less than seven points in Tunis to qualify.
The result? Tunisia 24 Namibia 17. It went to a countback of which country had scored more tries in the qualifying series. Namibia pinched it by one try.
The "Welwitschias" (pronounced Vell-vit-chars), as they are named, after a native plant, will not be expected to threaten the three heavier-weights in the pool.
The Namibians are captained by Corne Powell, a a former flanker, who is now a noted defensive centre.
Half the squad play their rugby in South Africa. Lock Heino Senekal is at Cardiff.
Senekal should be easy to spot at 1.98m and 123kg but the key figure is likely to be halfback Hakkies Husselman, who plays for Mpumalanga Pumas in South Africa, and has had four seasons at the Cats and Bulls in the Super 12.
Namibia's ambition this time will be to beat Romania, effectively claiming fourth in the pool.
"The aim is to be well planned and well prepared, and who knows?" Waterston said.
The first two planks are admirable, the third hints at an unrealistic romance.
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By DAVID LEGGAT