Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S senior netball team coach Lloyd Makunde says this year’s Pent Series, starting this morning in Windhoek, Namibia, came at the right time as they are looking ahead with the World Cup qualifiers set to start in August. The Gems, who were earlier on scheduled to leave for Namibia on Tuesday, finally left the country by road on Thursday after they got a shot in the arm with Mukuru presenting them with two sets of playing kit, tracksuits and balls.
They were expected to arrive in Windhoek yesterday.
With the 2019 World Cup qualifiers set for August, Makunde believes besides defending their title at the Pent Series, they have to utilise this opportunity and start their build-up now.
“We are so happy because if this tournament wasn’t there it would have been hard for us to just go straight to the qualifiers. But then here in the Pent Series we will actually polish up our team.
“After the tournament when we are doing our postmortem we will know better where we stand, so it’s so much to our advantage.
‘’We will polish up our team at the Pent Series and we will be better prepared when we go to Zambia,” said Makunde.
Zimbabwe joins hosts Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Uganda for the five-day tournament to be played in a round-robin.
The reigning champions know they have a huge task at hand with African champions Uganda taking part as well as Zambia, who are also making some strides in their game.
But Makunde said they will not be intimidated by any of the participating teams having also proved their mettle at such competitions.
“I think our toughest opponent will be Uganda because they are on the rise, they are now seventh in the world.
‘’And they have an opportunity to play more games unlike us we don’t play more games as a team, so they have got better exposure than us.
“So, hopefully, we will overcome them and we are geared up to play them as well. We have more than 50 percent chances of retaining our title. Hopefully we will bring it back, we are looking forward to that,”
For this assignment, the national senior team coach has also roped in wing attack Edinah Nyamazha, goal keepers Alice Tewera Banda and Rudo Karume.
The return of captain Perpetua Siyachitema also seems to have had some positive effects on the team.
“When we went to Namibia last year we didn’t go with Perpetua the captain, she is back, adding some depth to our team and all the countries know her. She is just a threat being there.
‘’But then we asked her to come not just because she is known, she obviously fought for her place and she is here on merit,” said Makunde.
Siyachitema, who last year hinted on retiring before she missed the Pent Series because of an injury, said she feels the team still needs her.
“I realised that with the passion I have for netball and the national team I had to come back. I realised the young girls still need me.
‘’I am happy to be back with the girls and working with them again, sharing my knowledge and experience. And for me it’s an honour,” Siyachitema said.
Team: Media Mafuta, Alice Tewera Banda, Cynthia Gamuchirai, Rudo Karume, Perpetua Siyachitema, Ndaizivei Madzikangava, Edinah Nyamazha, Patricia Mauladi, Pauline Jani, Tafadzwa Matura, Mercy Mukwadi, Ursula Ndlovu.
Today: Namibia v Botswana, Uganda v Zambia.
Tomorrow: Botswana v Zambia, Namibia v Zimbabwe.
Monday: Zimbabwe v Botswana, Uganda v Namibia.
Tuesday: Zambia v Zimbabwe, Uganda v Botswana.
Wednesday: Uganda v Zimbabwe, Namibia v Zambia.