Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
FOLLOWING the release of the Diamond Challenge fixture to take place in South Africa between this month and December, Zimbabwe’s senior netball team coach Lloyd Makunde says their game against the hosts is the most important in their quest for success.
The Challenge will feature Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the hosts from November 26 to December 2.
The games will be played in a round-robin format with the top team at the end of the event walking away with the title.
The participating countries will be playing for points for world rankings.
South Arica are the high ranked country in this competition at position five in the world while Zimbabwe are on number 13.
For Zimbabwe and South Africa it’s also a chance to gauge their teams as they prepare for next year’s Netball World Cup scheduled for July in Liveropool, England and they clash on the last day of the event.
“The South Africa game I think we will learn. But in terms of the other countries playing with us they will benefit more because we are ranked higher than them.
“It’s my first game against South Africa, I have never played them before. So I have watched their games with other countries, they are good. But we have to come up with strategies to match them and beat them in their own backyard.
“But then it’s a learning process and that game (against South Africa) is about learning, playing with a team in the top five.
‘‘After that game we will sit down and come up with more strategies when doing our post-mortem. It’s the most important game.
“It’s just that I was actually expecting that they will have higher ranked teams that will give us competition. But those countries coming, we will play them because it’s a good start towards the World Cup,” said Makunde.
The Gems’ coach, however, said all games will be key as they are also seeking to improve their world rankings and they need to win matches to accumulate points.
“Zambia will obviously come out with their guns blazing after the defeat we handed them in Zambia. It was like a humiliation, they didn’t like it. So obviously they would like to get their revenge on us.
“Namibia has new top players, so it’s going to be a tight game, even Botswana. So the games will be tight because they are ranking games as well. So we don’t have to relax because we will lose points if we lose these games.
“It’s a very important tournament, we need to maintain our winning streak so that we accumulate points. We need to beat South Africa, then we get more points and soon we will be in the top 10 or top five so that we enjoy the benefits of being in the top five. The only way to do it is by winning and collecting points,” said Makunde.
The top five teams on the International Netball Federation world rankings automatically qualify for the World Cup. Zimbabwe will open their account against Botswana on November 27.
They will then face Zambia the following day and on November 29 they have a date against Namibia.
It will be followed by a clash against SA President’s XII and they wrap-up their campaign against South Africa on December 1.
The Gems are expected to regroup on November 11 in Harare ahead of the Diamond Challenge.
November 27: South Africa vs Namibia (3pm), Botswana vs Zimbabwe (5pm), Zambia vs SA President’s XII.
November 28: Zambia vs Zimbabwe (3pm), SA President’s XII vs Namibia (5pm), South Africa vs Botswana (7pm).
November 29: South Africa vs SA President’s XII (3pm), Botswana vs Zambia (5pm), Namibia vs Zimbabwe (7pm).
November 30: Botswana vs Namibia (3pm), South Africa vs Zambia (5pm), Zimbabwe vs SA President’s XII (7pm).
December 1: Botswana vs SA President’s XII (3pm), Zimbabwe vs South Africa (5pm), Zambia vs Namibia (7pm).