Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
SENIOR national netball team coach Lloyd Makunde says his team are getting to the level where he wants them to be ahead of their maiden appearance at the Vitality Netball World Cup scheduled for Liverpool, England, from July 12 to July 21.
The 14th-ranked Zimbabwe will be the only debutants at the 16-team quadrennial tournament following their qualification last year.
Makunde, who previously expressed concern over the team’s defence, said they have made some strides in that area.
“We have been through a lot, we are trying to condition the players so that they can find it easy when they play the best opponents in the world. So we are trying to work on that. We are working on different combinations but mainly concentrating on our mid-court defence and the team defence overall.
“But then we still want to work over the mid-court defence because that’s where we can win balls and take them against our opponents and score thereby winning our games.
“They (the players) are being better now unlike before. So we want to mainly concentrate on mid-defence whereas all the players who come in the centre third if we can say we can intercept five goals per quarter, we are home and dry and we are working mostly on that,” said Makunde.
The Gems technical team is yet to announce the final squad for the tournament with less than three weeks before the World Cup takes off and most of the participating countries have announced their final teams.
Makunde has been working with 19 players since they began the final camp early this month and is taking his time to announce the final 12. They are expecting Australia-based Joyce Takaidza this week, taking the tally to 20 players.
“As this is a World Cup, we have never had a player from the Diaspora before. She would have been here before but it was just because of her visa application. We need her experience as well in the World Cup, hopefully she will gel with the others,” said Makunde.
Zimbabwe’s opening game in Group A is against Sri Lanka on July 12.
They will then take on reigning World champions Australia in their second match on July 13 and conclude the group matches with a date against Northern Ireland.
“Sri Lanka they have tall players, that’s why I am saying especially on Sri Lanka, we need to concentrate on mid-court.
“On the physical side right now I can say the players are there, they have been going to the gym, we have been playing our part as coaches here doing their physical preparation.
“So physically, we are almost there and lastly we are concentrating on team work these last few weeks. How do we get our offense going, how do we attack, how do we defend as a team. We did the individual part now we want to see how we progress as a team, how we make it as a team, offense and defence both,” said Makunde.
Being first time contenders, Zimbabwe will be looking at leaving a mark at the World Cup and it’s also going to be a learning curve for the former African champions