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Danie Dames on World Cup and beer with Bakkies

In just 16 days he played four times for Namibia in the IRR World Cup and he was barely back from New Zealand when he donned the scarlet-green jersey of the Leopards and scored a beauty of a 30 m try against the Sharks at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng.
   For the 25 year-old former NWU-Puk, Danie Dames, 2011 was frustrating, a maiden engagement and unforgettable.

Danie Dames tries to dodge a Fijian defender.

Where do you come from originally?
“I was born in the little town Koës in Namibia. It is about 200 km from Keetmanshoop in the Kalahari. My father farms with sheep, goats and cattle. I went to primary school in Koës and to high school in Upington.”
How did it happen that you came to the NWU-Puk?
“I played for Griquas in the Craven Week after which the NWU-Puk offered me a study bursary. At school, athletics and cricket were two of my great passions and I actually thought that cricket was my future. I started playing for the NWU-Puk in 2005 before I left for the Sharks for two years, where I first played for the Wildebeests in the Vodacom Cup and for the Sharks XV the following year before I returned to Potchefstroom. I really enjoyed my time at the NWU-Puk and that is why I think I’m still here. Matt Proudfoot (WP and Stormers forwards coach) was my coach then and I learnt a lot from him. He’s an excellent coach.”
How did it happen that Namibia contacted you?
“They first invited me for trials just before the 2007 World Cup, but I was still U/21 and declined the offer because I hoped that I could play for the Springboks one day. They contacted me again end of last year for a tour to Portugal, but unfortunately I couldn’t go due to a shoulder injury. I’m 25 this year and I’ve realised that it is highly unlikely that I will be playing for the Springboks. That’s why I’ve decided to go to Namibia for the experience, because it’s an excellent opportunity to go and play in the World Cup. My first game for Namibia was a warm-up game against the Griffons in Windhoek and then against Fiji in the World Cup.”
You were off the field for quite a while due to a shoulder injury just before the World Cup…
“Yes, I was out for five months, but Bossie (Leon Boshoff, Leopards coach) kept us injured thoroughly busy with rehabilitation (laughs).”
How does it feel to play for a national team on the biggest rugby stage?
“Man, it’s nice. It’s very tough, but the atmosphere is just unbelievable. The pavilions are full and there are so many people, I just can’t describe it!”
And to play against the Boks?
“It felt quite weird. Some of the guys joked before the time that they shouldn’t slip up and sing South Africa’s anthem. After all, most of us come from South Africa. But, once you wear that Namibian jersey, you fall where you should.”
Namibia played against Fiji, Samoa, Wales and South Africa. Which game was the toughest?
“Definitely the games against Wales and the Springboks. They were very physical and their game pattern was such that we had no possession. We had to defend the whole time, especially against Wales. Against the other two countries we did have some possession that we could play with.”
Of the Springboks, who gave Namibia the most difficult time?
“The Boks’ forwards were very physical. Francois Hougaard and Gio Aplon were excellent, but we gave them way too much space. Willem Alberts was hard when he came on the field and Bakkies Botha was rough when driving forward.”
Tension is probably very high just before a World Cup kick-off?
“Yes, the tension before kick-off is high, but you can get nervous only up to a point. It’s just people and security all over the place, and if you play against Fiji or Samoa, you have to deal with their ‘hakas’ as well. It is then that the nerves take over!”
Does one ever feel scared?
“No, not at all. You only feel a bit nervous.”
What do you think was your best performance?
“It’s difficult to say. I played well against Fiji and defended well against the Boks. Wales was difficult. Your body is so tired and you just have to defend the whole time. One can probably only talk about defence, because we has so little ball possession!”
Namibia had a very strenuous schedule. How did you handle it and do you think it’s fair?
“We were seeded last (20th) and the schedule is worked out accordingly, so you take what you get. The first ten minutes of the games were especially difficult and tough, because you are tired and your body aches. After that it gets better.”
What were some of the team’s biggest obstacles during the tournament?
“We had a good team that tried hard, but we just don’t play enough as a team at that level. We were too inexperienced. That Namibia is playing in the Vodacom Cup helps a lot, but we will have to play more in the Nation’s Cup.”
Where did you stay?
“We were based in Gibson and played against Fiji and Samoa in Rotorua. Then we played the Boks in Auckland and then Wales at the Taranaki Stadium in New Plymouth.”
How did you experience Namibia’s group of players?
“They are a wonderful group of people and I made many friends. That’s the other nice thing. I arrived there and basically didn’t know anybody, but now I have a new group of friends.”
Your captain Jacques Burger?
“He is very good and leads by example. On the field he is rock hard and off the field he is a very friendly guy.”
Your lock, Heinz Kohl’s brilliant try against Wales?
“Heinz scored two tries during the tournament that he was very happy about.”
And of course you and your fly-half, Theuns ‘Worsie’ Kotze, played together at the NWU-Puk.
“Yes, it did help, because you know how he plays and where his strong and weak points are.”
You can play both full-back and wing. Which position do you prefer?
“I don’t really mind. If the game pattern is such that the wings get the ball a lot, it is nice, but if I played full-back for a while it is just as nice. I will play any position.”
On your return, how did you experience the tempo of the Currie Cup?
“You know, during the World Cup I initially thought there is not so much of a difference in the tempo, but when I played against the Sharks on Saturday, I could clearly feel that it was slower and at a lower level, probably because we had more possession.”
Up till now, what are the highlights of your career?
“This (the World Cup) definitely and also to win the Superbowl with the NWU-Puk. My first games in the Currie Cup also count as highlights; it is a completely new and different experience.”
Speaking of the Currie Cup, how do you feel about the Leopards playing in the First League next year?
“It’s disappointing that we are not going to play with the top teams anymore, but now we have to focus on moving up again. We gained a lot of experience during the past few years in the Premier League that we now will have to use to our advantage. It is a nice challenge and I’m sure we’ll be able to do it. Our last game is against the Blue Bulls this weekend and it would be nice if we can beat them.”
How do you feel about the Bok’s defeat against Australia in the quarter final of the World Cup?
“It’s very disappointing and I don’t think they deserved to lose. I felt they were one of the strongest teams at the tournament. Although we played against the Springboks, we supported them during the tournament and hoped they could win it. I know a few of the guys from my days at the Sharks and we had a good time with them in the changing rooms after our game. We enjoyed a beer together and exchanged jerseys. Willem Alberts and Bakkies Botha also came to our changing rooms after the game for a beer.”
When all is said and done, would you play in another World Cup again?
“Yes, definitely.”
Till then Dames has only one plan:
“After the Currie Cup I just want to sit and rest and do nothing. My body is a bit used up.”
Article by Bertie Jacobs.