BY GERALD MUTSVAIRO
THE Zimbabwe netball team’s preparations for the World Cup are expected to go a gear up after receiving an invitation from Netball South Africa to feature in their top-flight league, which got underway at the University of Pretoria on Friday.
The Gems are expected to play two matches in the Telkom-sponsored South Africa Netball League, starting with a date against the President’s Smileys, a team made up of locally-based South African national team players and coached by the country’s assistant coach Dorette Badenhorst, on May 18.
Zimbabwe will play their final game two days later against the President’s Stars, which is a male-only team, competing only in exhibition matches.
Leticia Chipandu, the Zimbabwe Netball Association president, said the invitation by their South African counterparts had come at the ideal time as they look to intensify their preparations for the World Cup.
“We are travelling to South Africa on the 16th of May to participate in two matches in the Telkom Netball League,” Chipandu said.
“These encounters will definitely help sharpen and improve the play of the team. The technical team has seen the positions they are lacking, so this will give them an opportunity to work on new combinations so that we improve going forward.
“South Africa are a very good side and we are hoping to have good games. We will keep on arranging more games and keep on preparing for Liverpool.”
The invitation to South Africa comes on the back of the Gems’ recent tour of Uganda, where they played four friendly matches against their higher-ranked hosts as part of preparations for the Netball World Cup set for Liverpool, England, from July 12 to 21.
During the Uganda tour, the Gems lost all four matches against the She Cranes, with the opening fixture last Sunday ending in a 57-53 victory for the hosts, followed by further 57-53, 58-48 and 58-54 wins for the hosts in the last three matches.
Despite the defeats, Gems coach Lloyd Makunde said they drew a number of positives from the encounters while also identifying some areas they need to improve before heading to their maiden World Cup.
Uganda are ranked number seven in the world while the Gems are ranked 13th.