Ellina Mhlanga in Liverpool, England
ZIMBABWE senior national netball team assistant coach, Ropafadzo Mutsauki, has reiterated the importance of continuity following a fruitful campaign at the just-ended Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
The senior side, with an average age of 25, surprised many when they finished eighth at the tournament.
The team consisted of seasoned and young players with three of them – Sharleen Makusha, Claris Kwaramba and Sharon Bwanali – having been part of the Under-21 side that went to the 2017 World Youth Cup.
Gems vice-captain Felistus Kwangwa, who also played the qualifiers for the World Youth Cup, proved to be key for the side with her defensive skills during this World Cup debut here.
Mutsauki, who was in charge of the Under-21 side at the World Youth Cup, said the way they have progressed reflects the importance of continuity.
“I think it’s very important because a combination between the coaches and the players, it came in handy and helped us to come up with a formidable team.
“I think it helps to create a better understanding between the coach and the players, so for them to graduate from Under-21, then senior team, it made a difference because we now have a better understanding of each player.
“We have an understanding of their type of play, behaviour and attitude, it really helps us as coaches.
”It’s important to have that system. It really made a difference during this campaign because these players they were now used to each other,” Mutsauki said.
Mutsauki said with half of the team in their early or mid-20s they can still build their future team around this group.
Senior players like Pauline Jani and Rudo Karume have indicated they now want to concentrate on their club careers.
Karume said having joined the senior team in 2008, it’s time to let new blood take the lead.
“This is my last time to come for the national team duty. I now want to concentrate on my career at club level.
”I had always wanted to compete at the World Cup, so my wish has been fulfilled and I have been to a lot of tournaments representing Zimbabwe.”
The Gems have raised the country’s flag high after a top eight finish at the just-ended World Cup that was won by New Zealand who beat Australia in the final on Sunday.
Zimbabwe were one of the four African countries that competed at this year’s tournament and they all made history by finishing in the top eight.