Veronica Gwaze in POLOKWANE, South Africa
THE Zimbabwe senior netball team started their Diamond Challenge campaign on a high note acquiring maximum points after clobbering rivals Botswana to a 43-30 defeat yesterday at Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex here in Polokwane, South Africa.
Remaining safe on their contest for the title, the Gems continue basking in victory since their World Cup qualifiers in Zambia last August where they again overpowered the Tswana girls.
In the top-of-the-table clash, the Gems were under a lot of pressure which could have thrust them into a panic mode, losing chances to trivial faults.
In the second quarter, lethal defenders Rudo Karume and Cynthia Gamuchirayi were, however, on point and alert to defend their side, giving their midfielders more room to manoeuvre.
By half-time, the Gems were leading 17-15.
In the second half, Gems coach Lloyd Makunde had to rope in goal-attacker Ursula Ndlovu and new Gem Lorraine Manjoro at the centre to boost his attack.
The two came in fine form to ease the pressure and barely 10 minutes into the second half the gap had widened.
Gems coach Lloyd Makunde paid tribute to his charges for a mission accomplished.
He said while combinations where not clicking in the first quarter after some changes, things fall into shape in the second quarter.
“We are actually in the process of assembling a new team and because we are trying out new combinations, the first set up was obviously not the best.
“However, we were quick to identify the weaknesses and come second quarter, things fell into shape,” he said.
Makunde blamed most of the mistakes to panicking which resulted in his charges playing a rushed game.
However, he said it was expected of because it was the first game for the new Gems who obviously needed time to gel with the veteran players.
“It could have been the new combinations or maybe fear came from watching the Spar Proteas (South Africa) play their first match.
“This could have mounted a lot of pressure on them especially the new players but finally things got better and still we are going to continue assembling a new team until we come up with what we can call our best possible side.
“At first they were playing a rushed game and I had to remind them that they should stick to the game-plan not to adopt the opponents’ type of play and there we are, we made it,” said Makunde.
Botswana Coach Gaelesiwe Sieta blamed her charges’ defeat on low self-esteem.
“We have new players and from the puerile errors that we were making, I could see low self-esteem was the major problem.
“Zimbabwe is one of the big names in Africa now and the fact that they are a team that will be participating at the World Cup, I am sure this had a huge impact on my squad.
“Some of the players were also not in camp most of the time for various reasons which include examinations and we only met for this tournament so obviously it took a game to gel but what is important is that we learnt a thing or two.”
In the other match yesterday, hosts South Africa thumped Namibia 78-28.
Zambia vs Zimbabwe
SA President X11 vs Namibia
South Africa vs Botswana