Having won through to the Super Sixes of the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand at the start of the year - from a tough group that included the Netherlands, Kenya and Papua New Guinea - Namibia fell two points short of the top four finish that would have secured them ODI Status and a pass to the World Cricket League Championship. Since then they've had a mixed record in the 50-over format.
A decent showing at the Africa Cricket Association Cup saw them notch up convincing wins over Uganda, Tanzania and a South African XI. Namibia has also strung together three wins in the South African Provincial T20 Challenge, but despite their success in the shorter format they've yet to register a win in the 50 Over competition. Nonetheless the regular exposure to high-level cricket that the competition gives the hosts a considerable edge going into the tournament.
This edge was in evidence during the recent warm-up tour when Namibia welcomed Kenya, the home side winning both senior fixtures and even the A-side running the Kenyans close in the second of two games. But playing a key role in both of those senior wins was star allrounder Christi Viljoen, who won't be taking the field for WCL division two.
Viljoen, whose performances with both bat and ball in the past year earned him the Namibian Cricketer of the Year Award in April, abruptly announced his departure at the beginning of last month, having failed to come to terms with Cricket Namibia in contract negotiations. The loss of Viljoen, who has left to pursue ambitions of a full time career in New Zealand, came as an unexpected blow said Watson, but one which was accepted without bitterness. "We were surprised at Christi's choice, but we wish him well in his move to New Zealand. He always gave 100% effort in every game."
Even without Viljoen the Namibian line-up is nothing to be sniffed at, home advantage not only conferring the usual on-field advantage, but also mitigating the player availability issues which have plagued Namibia in the past. Viljoen excepted, the hosts have been free to pick the side they want. The result is what Watson describes as "a very well balanced team with some good experience and some youthful energy."
On the experience side of the equation the side is bolstered by the return of Louis Klazinga, whose struggles with a knee injury have limited his appearances since the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. Klazinga was Namibia's top wicket taker in that tournament, with 18 wickets at 14.89 including a furious 5-36 against the UAE. Watson is confident Klazinga will be firing in Windhoek, "Louis' knee is improving with every training session and he bowling with a lot more energy. I think the break from cricket has done his body a world of good. It is great to have him back he is great team man and adds huge value to our team."
Also back in the Namibian attack is veteran paceman Bjorn Kotze, who returns to the national side after a three year absence. Kotze showed no signs of hindrance from a long-standing back complaint when he took 4-30 for Namibia A against Kenya in late November to win a place in the side. Also back in the squad is batting allrounder Craig Williams, who's 55 for Namibia A followed by a fine all-round performance for the national side against Kenya cemented his place, with familiar stalwarts Sarel Burger, Gerrie Snyman and skipper Nicolaas Scholtz the other senior players.
The remainder of the Namibian side is remarkable for its youth, with no other players over the age of 24 included in the 14-man squad. Nonetheless Namibia's participation in the South African domestic competition has provided ample opportunity to blood the youngsters, all having already accrued substantial international experience. Standing out in terms of recent form is 24 year-old Raymond van Schoor - averaging a remarkable 86.75 in his last five 50-over games for Namibia, but there are few weak links to be found in the hosts' young line-up.
Indeed if there are weaknesses to be found in the Namibian squad, they may be in the fragility of the aging and injury-prone pace attack and, in the absence of du Preez and van der Westhuizen, the dearth of slow bowling options, with captain Nick Scholtz essentially limited to his own part-time leg spin and his brother's left arm orthodox. That said, nobody's going to Windhoek expecting a spinner's paradise, and if Klazinga and Kotze can avoid injury then the Namibian pace attack looks equal to any in the tournament.
The team is currently finalising their preparations at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, and with recent wins over Kenya and Uganda behind them their confidence going into the tournament will be high. Though this Division Two is without question the toughest so far, and Watson is keen to downplay the extent of home advantage, but nonetheless anything less than a top-two finish will be a disappointment to the hosts, and a surprise to many.
"Its always good to play at home, on saying that I have no doubt all the teams will arrive well prepared and focused. All the the teams are very good, I think it is going to be a tough tournament, we are preparing well and are focused for what lies ahead."
Namibia WCLd2 Fixtures:
17 Jan - Namibia v Kenya (Wanderers)
18 Jan - Namibia v Uganda (Wanderers)
19 Jan - Rest/reserve day
20 Jan - Namibia v Netherlands (Wanderers Affies)
21 Jan - Namibia v Nepal (United)
22 Jan - Rest/reserve day
23 Jan - Namibia v Canada (United)
24 Jan - Final (Wanderers), 3rd v 4th play-off (United), 5th v 6th play-off (Wanderers Affies)
All matches are scheduled to start at 09.30 local time.