The tournament that runs until January 15 at the University of Pretoria Indoor Arena sees two teams qualifying for the Africa Basketball Championships with one team qualifying for the All Africa Games to be held in Mozambique later this year.
Hosts South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe will be represented by both their men and women’s teams while Botswana will field their men’s team only.
Odds are heavily stacked against the Zimbabweans for they have never qualified for the prestigious tournaments with the men and women’s teams only having competed at the 1995 All Africa Games which Zimbabwe hosted.
The under-19 girls’ team took part in the All Africa Games in Algeria after receiving a wild card from the Federation of International Basketball (Fiba).
The teams also had to endure the uncertainty of not knowing whether they would make the trip to South Africa with Basketball Union of Zimbabwe only managing to raise the funds on Thursday, a day before the team left for South Africa.
They also have to overcome the psychological barrier of having failed to beat the two top teams, South Africa and Mozambique in the previous encounters.
However the national teams’ coaches were confident of brewing a Houdini act in South Africa with Ngoni Mukukula, the national men’s team’s coach appealing to God.
“We have done everything within our powers. God willing, we will succeed qualify for Mozambique and Ivory Coast. During the past week, we have managed to turn a group of men into a complete team.
“The players now understand each other and no one is going to take things lightly. It is a good thing that Angolans are not there and we will have to contend with Mozambicans and South Africans who have beaten us narrowly in the past,” he said.
He could be right for in Farai Tumbare, Mpumelelo Hlabangane, Duncan Shenje and Hamilton Mudawarima, Mukukula has the arsenal at his disposal.
Women team’s assistant coach Lawson Simon concurred with Mukukula.
If Zimbabwe qualifies for the Fiba Africa Basketball Championships, they will join hosts Ivory Coast, holders Angola, 2009 third placed Tunisia and Nigeria who have already qualified.
Allan Zimbangu (forward), Hamilton Mudawarima (third guard), Simbarashe Mugomezi (third guard), Allan Tegunde (point guard), Vitalis Chikoko (five centre), Mpumelelo Hlabangana (small forward), Farai Tumbare (fourth centre), Menard Masawi (point guard), Norest Shenje (third guard), Duncan Shenje (second guard), Nevile Chivhanganye (centre), Tawanda Chistinde (point guard), Stenan Mapurisana (third guard), Tatenda Mataruse (second guard).
Coach: Ngoni Mukukula
Regina Chisale (captain), Charity Chigumba, Fadzai Mabasa (vice-captain), Sharon Chamunorwa, Ethel Saba, Isabel Tengende, Dorcas Marondera, Margret Magwaro, Yolanda Matayataya, Helena Nyagato, Rachel Makoni, Precious Musanhi
Coach: Ronald Garura