Phil Davies reshuffles his Namibia side to counter physical threat of Tongans

Rugby 1

PLYMOUTH, 27 Sept – Phil Davies, the head coach of Namibia, has rung the changes for Tuesday’s Pool C encounter with Tonga in Exeter and says his side have been lifted by their defiant display against the All Blacks last Thursday.

Davies makes eight amendments to the starting XV who lost 58-14 to the world champions. Two of last week’s side – scrum-half Eugene Jantjies, who has a bruised cheekbone, and tight-head prop Raoul Larsen, who has not shaken off a hamstring injury – were not considered for the game at Sandy Park but Davies is hopeful they will be fit to face Georgia next week.

“Eugene looks like he has gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson but he should be OK for next week,” said the coach who, while acknowledging that nine places in the world rankings separate the sides, believes his team can record their first win in a Rugby World Cup.

“The Tongans have a good rest and there is a lot of emotion flying round their squad. It will be physical. They are ranked eleventh in the world and we are ranked 20. That’s a huge difference and it will be a massive, massive challenge but we are relishing it.”

IMPACT OFF BENCH

By Tuesday night the head coach reckons that 28 of his squad will have had some game time. “It’s a case of managing the squad and keeping people fresh. We want some consistency and plenty of impact off the bench. Our selection policy is a little different from how it has been but we think it will help bring us that consistency.

“It’s a short turnaround after the New Zealand game. After that game there was inevitable excitement but this is a level-headed group and while we take a lot of heart from our display last week, I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t impose ourselves earlier. But the All Blacks have beaten a lot of tier-one sides by 50 points and we have a lot to be pleased about.”

Eneill Buitendag, who replaced Jantjies for the last eight minutes of the All Blacks game, comes in at scrum-half on Tuesday afternoon. He will partner Theuns Kotze while Johan Deysel (pictured), whose second-half try brought the house down at the Olympic Park, keeps his place at inside-centre.

Casper Viviers comes in at loose-head against the Tongans, who will have had 10 days to recover from their disappointing first-game defeat by Georgia.

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