Gems ready for Diamond Challenge

Shelly Guni 

Zimbabwe senior national netball team (the Gems) head coach, Ropafadzo Mutsauki, reckons  the significance of the Diamond Cup Challenge.

The challenge takes centre stage tomorrow in Pretoria, South Africa, with the Gems playing against President’s XII in their opening match at 4 p.m.

Diamond Challenge is an annual tournament hosted by South Africa towards the end of the year, and teams are invited to take part.

Zimbabwe, Scotland, and South Africa will compete in this year’s edition.

Following the withdrawal of Malawi, South Africa’s President’s XII team has been roped in to participate at this year’s tournament as an invitational team.

This is a huge tournament for the Gems side as they prepare for next year’s Netball World Cup, set to be held in Cape Town from July 28–August 6.

“This tournament is crucial for us as a team as we start our preparations for the World Cup next year,” Mutsauki told Review and Mail Sport.

 “I am happy with the level of competition that the players have shown during this camp.” Those who didn’t make the cut the first time around have risen to the occasion and given it their all. They have shown great fighting spirit, and you can see that they are trying to prove a point. which is healthy.

“This therefore means that when we finally kick-start our preparations for next year, we will have a wide pool to choose from.”

The Diamond Challenge has a number of new faces who are set to make their debut in the form of Thandazile Ndlovu, Thandekile Mahlangu, Rudo Simbi, and Assa Zimusi. Also making a comeback to the Gems squad is Kudakwashe Machongwe.

All these players were not part of the group that traveled for the qualifiers in August.

“We intend to use this tournament to identify those with whom we believe we will be able to work in the future. The Diamond Cup is equally important as another tournament that we took part in.”

Mutsauki said they are not only focusing on the results but also the lessons.

“We know we will do great.” We are no longer underdogs; we are going to compete and come out with pleasing results. As such, we don’t want to put too much pressure on our players since this is a buildup to the bigger stage.

“But also, we are not going to be complacent.

“We want to register maximum points in all the games, meaning we will play to our best.”

Mutsauki said they will only be able to announce the final 12 today.

Senior Gems player Tanaka Makusha said they are looking forward to some positive results.

“We are no pushovers; we are a good side, and so will be the results.”

“We are going to take the SPAR Proteas to task; should they win, they will not get the win on a silver platter; they will have to sweat hard for that, but all the same, we are eyeing maximum points against the South African side.”

“As for the other two opponents, we just need to focus and win impressively,” she said.

Meanwhile, the under-19 team is already in camp, preparing for the upcoming Region-5 games set for Lilongwe, Malawi, next month.

The young Gems manager, Stembile Banda, confirmed the development and said everything is on course.

“We are preparing for the Region 5 games; we have 12 players in camp.”

“So far, so good; all players are in good health, and we are hoping that there won’t be any injury scares.”

“As you can see, the coach is there and already trying out combinations.”

“We do not have so much time to prepare, but we are happy that this journey began way back in May when we camped ahead of the COSANA Cup games, where we finished first.” 

“There are only two new players to add to the team that we traveled with to Malawi earlier this year,” she said.

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