Overall tactical approach important

…as Gems Kickstart Netball World Cup Qualifiers Campaign

Shelly Guni         

In Pretoria, South Africa

In case there were any doubts about who the prime target in the gun sights of the Zimbabwe senior national netball team (Gems) should be, well, it is Botswana and Namibia.

 The Gems kick start their campaign for the 2023 Netball World cup with Botswana today during the netball world cup qualifiers being played at Rembrandt Hall here in Pretoria.

 The tournament started yesterday (Sunday) and will run until August 27.

 Zimbabwe is in pool A with teams like Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

 The target for the Gems is to go past the group stages first and aim for a top three finish, something which is very possible but not easy.

 The road to the semis is filled with obstacles in the form of Namibia and Botswana, who for the past two years, have given the Gems some torrid time.

 And now worse with the fact that these two teams have acquired the services of well-established foreign coaches to help them through these qualifiers.

 Namibia appointed former Malawi Queens player and coach, Mary Waya, and former Gems coach Lloyd Makunde who led the Gems to their first world cup back in 2019. With so much knowledge of the GEMS, Makunde will find it easy to plot their downfall as he sits on the opposite bench.

 Botswana appointed South African Jenny Van Dyk as the head coach.

 Of course, the time-tested and familiar tune in campaigns like these is that every game is as crucial as it is winnable, and that the next one is always paramount, but that is the idealistic standpoint of those nations for whom qualifying has become a bare minimum.

 The last time the team qualified for the World Cup the Gems defeated Botswana 53-28. Although the team (Botswana) has been making strides off late, the Gems need to be at their best to come out victorious.

 “The change in fixtures doesn’t affect us, the initial plan that we had will still stand. What we did during camp back home is what we will stick with. During every tournament the team improves almost every day until it finishes the so we know by the time we get to the third game every team would have improved so we will need to adjust.”

 The Gems need to single out the minnows and go for the jugular, not with unjustified arrogance but with a single-minded sense of purpose. They are not necessarily soft targets, but for qualification to happen they are the ones that must be primed for a kill. No two ways about it.

 Being in a pool with teams like Botswana Namibia, Tanzania it is from the latter that one should envisage a realistic shot at garnering all maximum points. South Africa might be a challenge but their defeat to Uganda during the Commonwealth games showed that anything can happen.

 The Botswana and Namibia teams cannot be disparaged but must be besieged, the assault not gung-ho but intelligent.

 Netball being what it is, the Gems could do it the hard way and instead roll over Tanzania on the way to eventual qualification; but since flowery fairy tales and the big scalps when it really matters have not been part of the script for decades on end, in Gem’s real world it is the Botswana and Namibia the like that must be devoured.

 The current Cranes team is virtually self-picking, with the back-to-front spine of Felisitus Kwangwa, Claris Kwaramba, Joice Takaedza, Sharon Bwanali well established.

 The details are of extreme importance but the overall tactical approach quite basic – focused defending, the high press, quick and concise attacking and precise set piece execution and the most critical facet of preparations must be the mental – both the mindset and a grasp of the demands of this particular game in light of the group’s dynamics.

 Full Fixtures

 Monday

Zimbabwe vs Botswana 1 pm

 Tuesday

Zimbabwe vs Namibia 12noon

 Wednesday

Tanzania vs Zimbabwe 2pm

 Thursday

South Africa vs Zimbabwe 12noon

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