By Tadious Manyepo
The Zimbabwe national netball team coach Lloyd Makunde says his charges have covered a lot of ground in addressing key aspects of the game ahead of the joint Africa Championships and 2019 World Cup qualifiers in Zambia next week.
The annual continental championship, which is slated for August 13 to 18 in Lusaka, will also work as qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, England, in July next year.
Seven countries – Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and hosts Zambia – will battle it out for African glory with two top teams set to join Malawi and South Africa for the global showpiece.
Malawi and South Africa have already qualified automatically for the quadrennial competition by virtue of being ranked among the top six countries in the world.
The former have opted to participate at the annual fiesta as part of their preparations for the World Cup.
The Gems have been in camp for the past few weeks with a squad of 17 players who will be trimmed to 12 this afternoon. And with an average height of 1.69metres among his players, Makunde believes his side have s worked well to compliment that. The veteran gaffer has also been preaching for his players to retain their focus after they lost to Botswana in the Pent Series last June in a match they were favourites.
“We are working on our shortfalls and trying to perfect our strengths. You know our biggest worry in the team is lack of height.
“That has always been our problem area but we will have to compliment that with a fast-paced game. We are mentally and physically prepared for the challenge.
“We have to guard against complacency as this is also one of our major weaknesses when it comes to tournaments. The last time at the Pent Series, we missed gold after we put our foot off the pedal and let Botswana win.
“I was disappointed by that loss but I am happy we lost to Botswana at the Pent Series because it could have been at the Africa Championships/World Cup qualifiers. There are no longer small teams in the world of netball these days. Namibia, Botswana and Kenya can all surprise any team. On the other hand there are powerhouses like Zambia and Uganda who play consistently but we cannot be intimidated by all that.
In Zambia, the Gems will be banking on their experienced players such as Pauline Jani, Mercy Mukwadi and Ursula Ndlovu. The Gems are expected to leave for Zambia on Friday where four members of the technical team are scheduled to attend a two-day Confederation of African Netball grading course before the commencement of the games.
Zimbabwe Netball Association president, Leticia Chipandu, said Africa B-graded umpire Agness Chiroodza and C-graded coaches John Banda, Alex Masimba and Nozimpho Mpofu will be part of the course as the country attempts to move with the changing times in the game.