By Chipo Sabeta
Zimbabwe senior national netball team head coach Lloyd Makunde is optimistic his girls learnt valuable lessons from yesterday’s 79-36 defeat by New Zealand in the second stage of the Vitality Netball World Cup.
He also admitted that fatigue was slowly affecting the team due to the intensity of matches they have been involved in three days in a row.
The Gems’ bid for a semi-final berth suffered a setback when they lost their first game in Group F to New Zealand, leaving them with two wins and two losses so far in their debut World Cup.
After playing a thriller against Northern Ireland on Sunday, Zimbabwe lost to fourth-ranked New Zealand in a match the Gems looked flat and physically drained.
Makunde made changes to the starting line-up, handing goal shooter Pauline Jani, goal defender Adelaide Thandeka Muskwe and goal attacker Sharon Bwanali their first starts at the World Cup.
Offensively, Zimbabwe continued to stutter, struggling to create scoring opportunities.
There was no sense of urgency, flair or magic moments from the first quarter, but Makunde is hoping they bounce back tonight against Barbados at 8PM Zimbabwean time.
“We have prepared enough as far as endurance is concerned. However, we can’t run away from the fact that fatigue is slowly catching up considering that the matches are coming every day. I can’t really hide behind minor injuries in the team and it’s not an excuse. It’s a learning curve for the players, for the coaches, the association and the sports fraternity at large. When we learn from a loss, we can gain from a loss,” Makunde said.
“We have to work hard and find a solution to bounce back. We will try to rotate the players as much as possible to keep them fresh. At least we have more than a day to rest before we play Barbados tomorrow.”
Gems’ defenders Rudo Kurume and Felistus Kwangwa suffered against New Zealand, as their close marking was constantly called as unfair contesting by the umpires.
The fresh pair of Muskwe and Makusha struggled to combine in the first quarter and by the time it ended, New Zealand had increased their lead to 21-10.
“Basically we tried a new combination defensively. The main defensive combination was out and there was room for us to give others international exposure.
However, height seems to be a very important aspect at this tournament. Our defenders are short and that’s a huge disadvantage on our part. We are now eager to do well tomorrow against Barbados,” Makunde said.
Going into their second Group F match, Zimbabwe need to settle on a strong starting seven, as random changes for the sake of giving all players a World Cup feel will only serve to further knock the side’s already battered confidence.
Following the end of the preliminary stage of the Netball World Cup, 12 teams have now progressed to the next stage.
The 12 teams have been placed in two groups to play for a place in the semi-finals, while the remaining four will compete to determine 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th places.
The groups competing for the semis are Group F, with Australia, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Malawi and Barbados.
Group G has Jamaica, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, England, Uganda and Scotland.
Previous results against teams in the new groups carry over, ensuring that the teams that secured three wins in the preliminaries go into the next phase with an advantage.
South Africa, along with hosts England, holders Australia and New Zealand all topped their groups with maximum points.
The top two teams in both groups will qualify for the semi-finals, while the remaining eight will contest matches to determine their overall placing (5th-12th) depending on their finishing position in Group F or G. The Chronicle