Jacques Burger (Gallo Images)
London - The good news for rank outsiders Namibia is they will be playing against a 'shadow' team when they begin their latest Rugby World Cup adventure on Thursday -- the bad news it is New Zealand.
Not even the sight of Japan beating South Africa on Saturday in the sport's biggest ever shock will fuel the Namibians' hopes of something even more extraordinary against the holders in what should be a lop-sided Pool C clash at London's Olympic Stadium.
But, spared having to play against Steve Hansen's preferred starting 15, and bolstered by their most rigorous build-up to a tournament, they can reasonably expect to avoid a repeat of the record 142-0 loss they suffered against Australia in 2003.
The lowest-ranked side in the tournament, boasting a dentist, some farmers and a diamond trader in their squad, they have impressed coach and former Wales international Phil Davies who hopes his players can enjoy the moment.
"It is vital that we get them to express themselves and relish the opportunity to play against the world champions," he said on Monday. "I am under no illusions but it is going to be a fantastic opportunity to see the Namibian flag flying alongside that of New Zealand at the Olympic Stadium."
Attack coach Pieter Rossouw said Namibia are a lot more organised than back in 2003.
"We're pretty proud of our defence structures, which just need to be very good at international level," he said.
While Namibia's biggest name and one of few professionals is Jacques Burger, the Saracens forward, the All Blacks have an embarrassment of riches -- as was seen in the hard-fought 26-16 defeat of main group rivals Argentina when Hansen called several players off the bench to finally overwhelm the Pumas.
Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Sam Kane and Charlie Faumuina were all introduced to great effect and Hansen will likely make sure his entire squad has tasted action before the final whistle sounds on Thursday.
The All Blacks will almost certainly better the 54 points Wales managed against Uruguay in Pool A and with only the burly Georgians and Tonga to come in the group phase after that, keeping his players razor-sharp for the knockout rounds will be Hansen's biggest concern.
"We're fresher, but we have to make sure we're not underprepared," Hansen said. "We will use the quality of the people we have in the squad to train against, which I think is one of the big advantages of what we've got."
New Zealand: 1-Ben Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 3-Charlie Faumuina, 4-Luke Romano, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Liam Messam, 7-Sam Cane, 8-Victor Vito; 9-TJ Perenara, 10-Beauden Barrett, 11-Julian Savea, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 13-Malakai Fekitoa, 14-Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15-Colin Slade
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Tony Woodcock, 19-Kieran Read, 20-Richie McCaw, 21-Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22-Ma'a Nonu, 23-Ben Smith
Namibia: 1-Jaco Engels, 2-Torsten van Jaarsveld, 3-Johannes Coetzee, 4-Tjiuee Uanivi, 5-Pieter-Jan van Lill, 6-Jacques Burger (captain), 7-Tinus du Plessis, 8-Leneve Damens; 9-Eugene Jantjies, 10-Theuns Kotze, 11-Conrad Marais, 12-Johan Deysel, 13-JC Greyling, 14-David Philander, 15-Johan Tromp
Replacements: 16-Louis van der Westhuizen, 17-Casper Viviers, 18-Raoul Larson, 19-Renaldo Bothma, 20-Janco Venter, 21-Rohan Kitshoff, 22-Eneill Buitendag, 23-Chrysander Botha