The conflict between the Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) and Namibia Rugby Limited (NRL), which threatened to put the country’s Rugby World Cup participation at risk, is heading towards a happy ending.
The NRU and NRL have been at loggerheads over the control of the Namibian national rugby team, the Welwitchias, and the day-to-day running of the sport in the country.
World Rugby was called in to intervene and save the the Welwitchias’ trip to Japan after the NRU president, Corrie Mensah, refused to sign off the national teams. Mensah told ESPN that he had done so because the union had been “sidelined by the NRL”.
The impasse saw the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation report in January that the national team’s participation at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan was “in jeopardy”, but ESPN understands the NRU, NRL and World Rugby have now agreed a compromise that is expected to be announced on Monday after talks between the two Namibian parties, and presentations, at the Rugby Africa Conference in Morocco this weekend.
“We managed to pave a way forward where we could sit and find solutions to the problems we faced,” Mensah told ESPN.
“There was never a possibility of the team not going to the World Cup. That’s why we have done everything in our power to sort out the issues between the NRU and the NRL.
“The only problem would have been if World Rugby pulled their financial support, because without their support we would not have been able to go to Japan. This was out biggest concern.
“But preparations are going full steam ahead and the guys are busy training. Preparations are going well.”
Mensah told ESPN that the issues between the NRU and NRL started when the former NRU board created NRL, a registered company, before the end of its term. That board then transferred the running of the day-today activities to NRL, which left the new NRU board powerless as the custodians of the game.
“The biggest issue was for them to understand that the Namibian Rugby Union needs to be in charge of the private company,” Mensah said.
“The NRL made no provision for the for the new NRU officials, the custodians of the game in Namibia, to have a seat on the board or have a say in the NRL’s affairs.”
Mensah said he had to sign off the teams during the Africa Gold Cup, which also served as Africa’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers, because NRL was not recognised by the Namibian Sports Council. If the teams weren’t signed off, Namibia would not have been able to take part in the qualifiers. Namibia won the Africa Gold Cup to qualify for their sixth consecutive Rugby World Cup.
“Our constitution says that the board has the right to start a company, which acts as the professional arm to generate funds and look after the assets of the NRU,” Mensah said. “But they sidelined us completely, even though they weren’t even registered with the sports council, who must approve all national teams.
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“I had to sign [the national teams] off just so we could qualify for the World Cup. But once we did [qualify], I stopped it because it went against our constitution.
“But we have come to compromise. I can’t reveal what it is or will be, but it’s going to come down to the NRU taking back control of rugby in Namibia.”
– Namibia Rugby Limited did not respond to ESPN’s requests for interviews or comments.