By Sports Reporter
AFTER charming the sporting world with their superb performances in their maiden dance at the Netball World Cup, Zimbabwe will be eager to continue improving when their lineup against the continent’s heavyweights in the 2019 African Netball Championships later this month.
The Gems, as the national netball team is affectionately known will take part in the African Championships which will be held from October 16 to 23 in Cape Town, South Africa, which is their first major tournament since the World Cup held in Liverpool, England.
Zimbabwe will join seven other teams who include hosts South Africa, defending champions Uganda along with Botswana, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia.
Zimbabwe coach Lloyd Makunde says they need to work around the clock to maintain the bar they set after their impressive debut Netball World Cup appearance.
“Obviously, we are expecting a tough competition considering we had a good run at the World Cup.
“So, almost everyone, including the minnows, would want to beat us since we had a success story at the World Cup,” Makunde said.
“We set ourselves a bar, so we have to maintain it. We have to pull up our socks and play better than we did at the World Cup.’’
The African Championships will provide Zimbabwe with an opportunity to rebuild the squad as they look to fill the void left seasoned players, including captain Perpetua Siyachitema, prolific goal-shooter Pauline Jani and Rudo Karume, who called time on their international careers after the World Cup.
The Zimbabwe Gems finished eighth in their maiden Vitality Netball World Cup appearance where their performances warmed the hearts of many supporters across the world.
The Gems posted three victories against Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and Barbados, despite shoddy preparations and threats of boycotts during the tournament over unpaid allowances and bonuses.
Uganda have won the last two editions of the African Netball Championships following their back to back victories in 2017 and 2018 editions held in Uganda and Zambia, although the continent’s top two ranked nations South Africa and Malawi did not feature due to international commitments.