Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE’S senior netball team get their campaign at the African Championships underway tomorrow with the hope of not only claiming the continental title but also qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.
Seven countries, including high ranked Malawi who have already earned their place at the World Cup by the virtue of their ranking, will square it off in Lusaka, Zambia, for the African netball showpiece that takes off today.
The event, doubling as the 2019 World Cup qualifier, begins with the hosts Zambia taking on Botswana this afternoon.
Zimbabwe then open their campaign with a game against Malawi tomorrow morning. They will then clash with Botswana late in the afternoon.
For Zimbabwe, the 2015 champions, qualifying for the World Cup has become their top priority and with powerhouses South Africa and Malawi already qualified, they believe the probability of making their maiden appearance at the world stage next year is high.
The Lloyd Makunde-coached side left the country on Friday for Zambia and former national team coach Ledwin Dondo, who is the team manager, urged the girls to believe in themselves.
“I always say you need to be settled, you need to be stable mentally because netball is not only about running and jumping. You need to think and think fast and make a decision very fast. And that way we are going to win.
“And you should have confidence in yourself that you are able to do it, you are able to play just like the next person. There is no need to look down upon themselves. I am sure we are going to give our opponents a tough time.
“The intention is to go and play and win the Africa Championship and on top of that qualify for the World Cup. The team is ready and geared to go and play. We have no injuries, we thank God. So I can assure you we are going to bring a gold medal,” said Dondo.
Dondo, who was in charge of the team for quite sometime and led the Gems to their first African title in 2015, said with a mixed team of seasoned and young players they are good to go.
“This time we have blended the team, the young ones and the old ones who have got the experience. So it’s the speed and the brains. So I think this is the toughest team we are going to present there,” said Dondo.
Assistant coach Ropafadzo Mutsauki is satisfied with their state of preparedness for the event and said the presence of Dondo has been vital for both the technical team and players.
“This has helped the three of us, we worked together and came out with a strong team. Experience is important for the technical team and the players. We learnt a lot from her. She is good when it comes to the tactical side of things. So it really helped us.
“We are hoping to get results because looking at the fitness level of the team, it’s very high and their movement, which was a concern at first, is now okay.
There has been a lot of improvement and their marking has also improved.
“So we are hopeful against teams like Uganda and Zambia, they are fit and quick so we know we can hold them,” said Mutsauki.
Today: Zambia v Botswana.
Tomorrow: Malawi v Zimbabwe, Namibia v Uganda, Kenya v Zambia, Botswana v Zimbabwe.
Wednesday: Malawi v Uganda, Namibia v Kenya, Zimbabwe v Zambia, Botswana v Malawi.
Thursday: Uganda v Kenya, Zambia v Malawi, Zimbabwe v Namibia, Uganda v Botswana.
Friday: Zimbabwe v Kenya, Malawi v Namibia, Zambia v Uganda, Kenya v Botswana.
Saturday: Botswana v Namibia, Kenya v Malawi, Uganda v Zimbabwe, Namibia v Zambia.