Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
FOLLOWING a disappointing performance at the just-ended Diamond Challenge in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s Gems coach Lloyd Makunde has conceded they need to find a way to up their game if they are to match the standards at the Netball World Cup next year.
The senior women’s side added another feather to their cap when they qualified for the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, from July 12 to 21.
The Diamond Challenge was their first tournament since their qualification just over three months ago. They played Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, South Africa’s Spar Proteas and the SA President’s XII.
The technical team led by Makunde had indicated that the tournament would be their first step towards their World Cup preparations and they had also hoped for a victory against the hosts to boost their confidence.
South Africa, who are regarded as netball giants on the continent and are ranked fifth in the world, have been to the World Cup before.
They have more experience when it comes to international events compared to Zimbabwe. Just like in the previous meeting at the Diamond Challenge in 2016, Zimbabwe lost to their southern neighbours and this time around they also went down to Zambia. The Gems just managed two wins against lightweights Botswana and Namibia. And they walked away with a bronze medal.
Zimbabwe are one of the four African countries that will be at the World Cup and they were drawn together with the world’s number one side Australia, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.
Makunde said although they missed out on an improved outing, their game against South Africa gave them an insight of what to expect at the global showpiece.
“When we played South Africa we had a glance of what to expect at the World Cup. Most of their players have been to the World Cup and always play the best.
“I think we need to play teams like South Africa, Uganda and Malawi, we don’t need to play Botswana and Namibia anymore. We will be fooling ourselves that we are good.
“The girls reacted well, especially the games against SA President’s XII.
“Yes we lost, but it was good performance. We have to continue from that last game and we have to improve. I personally think we achieved our goals because we went there with new players who had never played international netball.
“They fared well, I never expected that from their debut.
“It’s a positive because when the time comes for selection again, we have a wider pool of players that have played at that level. Yes we lost to Zambia, but look, it’s like Zambia had a team who have been playing together for more than 10 years and we had just introduced new players,” Makunde said.
The Zimbabwe senior team coach pointed out some of the key areas of concern if they are to fare better in England next year.
“We need to work on our speed. It definitely costs us and we need to work on our speed on transition. We thought that we were fast, but after playing all the games in which we were defeated, we need to work on our speed.
“We need to work on team defence, the whole team, not just the two defenders. If we can try to win the ball mid court it will be okay. “