Gems set for World Cup qualifiers

Shelly Guni

The Zimbabwe senior national netball team (Gems) will begin their campaign for the 2023 Netball World Cup on August 22 when they take part at the qualifiers to be held at Rembrandt Hall at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

This will be the second time the Gems play at this venue after their appearance in May 2019 when they were preparing for the World Cup Finals that were held in Liverpool in 2019.

It was a friendly match where the team was invited by South Africa. They lost all the matches but it gave them a great practice opportunity as they went on to do very well at the World Cup two months later.

But this time, they are returning at the same venue not as invitees nor playing a friendly match.

The selected team will be carrying the country’s hope as they seek to qualify for their second successive World Cup appearance.

Should the Gems qualify, they will be part of the African netball history. This will be the first time in the history of Netball that the World Cup will be held on African soil.

The 2023 Netball World Cup will be held at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa in August.

Gems coach, Ropafadzo Mutsauki, is happy with the progress his players are making in the on-going camp.

The Gems have been in camp since July 4. The camp came a few weeks after the COSANA Tri-nations Cup which was held in Malawi.

“We are making a lot of progress. The players are finding their ground and everything is looking set.” Mutsauki said.

“Our main worry was on players’ fitness, but we have since worked on that through a number of activities. I have tested them and I have also noticed that they can now go for the whole game.”

Netball like any other sport was affected by the Covid-19 induced lockdown that saw sports being halted for close to two years.

The team had last played a competitive tournament in 2019 during the Africa Netball Championships that were held in Cape Town, South Africa.

They finished fourth in that tournament which came a few months soon after the World Cup Finals.

The Namibia Pent Series and Africa Netball Championships that were held in 2019 were the team’s first competition since October 2019.

The team won bronze during the Pent Series and finished fourth during the Africa Netball Championships after an embarrassing defeat in the hands of lower ranked Botswana.

“We have worked hard on a number of areas and also we have managed to study our opponents. We know what is awaiting us at the qualifiers and I assure the nation that we will make you proud,” MutsAauki said.

“The players are working so hard, you can tell that these players need this in as much as I also want it and the nation as well.

“We still have some time to police up and we know we can come up with the best team that can compete for honours in South Africa Next month.”

An initial 18 member squad was called for camp. However, Correctional Queens goal-shooter Tafadzwa Mawango withdrew owing to an injury. She was replaced by Platinum Queens’ Lynette Tanhira.

The technical team then added South Africa based, Ayanda Ndlovu on the list as well to take the team to 19 players.

Last Wednesday, four players were dropped as the technical team trimmed the squad.

The dropped players were Lizzie Kanyekwere, Taslima Mdimba both from Ngezi and the South Africa based duo of Ayanda Ndlovu and Thandekile Nyoni.

Mutsauki said this was normal in any team.

“We are just trimming the team to be left with the number we want. As you know a team should have 12 players registered for any particular match. So we will continue with the exercise until we are left with the number we want.”

Meanwhile, after the four were dropped, the Gems made another surprise addition of Patricia ‘Savannah’ Mauladi.

Mauladi last played in Namibia last year. The once regular feature in the Gems team only played a few games during the Pent Series.

The Gems have been having practice matches with the men’s teams, with Mutsauki saying he was happy with the competition the Gems were getting from the boys, saying they always helped them to see where they needed to work on after each and every practice match.

“Just like any other national netball team the boys are always used to strengthen the girl’s team due to their physicality and endurance. They are strong, they have endurance, and they are fast and agile so if the girls can go up until the last whistle with them it says a lot. So we are always happy to play them”

The Gems are camped at a local Harare school.