Veronica Gwaze, Harare Bureau
FIVE months later, Zimbabwe senior netball team head coach Lloyd Makunde reckons his charges still have unfinished business with South Africa’s Spar Proteas.
In a nail-biting encounter on December 3 last year, the Gems were left tear jerked as they fell 73-44 to the South Africans in Polokwane at the Diamond Challenge, finishing off in third place behind the hosts and Zambia respectively.
As the rivals clash again later this week in a friendly encounter, Makunde still finds it hard to talk of what happened in Polokwane.
“This will not be just an ordinary friendly match but there is history to it, a history that we want to redefine.
“What happened in December is something I cannot really describe but it is that encounter that has given us the push during our preparations,” said Makunde.
The friendly encounter comes as part of the preparations for the World Cup finals.
The finals are scheduled for July 12- 21 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, and 16 nations will be battling for the world title.
Zimbabwe have been drawn into Pool A together with favourites Australia, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.
And the friendly match against Spar Proteas will be used as a grading test for the Makunde-led charges.
“After an encounter with Uganda last week, I am happy our squad is building up very well because our combinations clicked very well.
“Not that I do not have confidence in myself no but I actually did not expect the girls to put up such a performance,” he said.
In Uganda, despite the Gems losing in all their games, the gaffer reckons his charges gave the East Africans a good run for their money.
“We are no longer pushovers and as we take on South Africa, I am optimistic that it is not going to be anything close to what happened at the Diamond Challenge,” Makunde said.
The gaffer believes South Africa will provide them with an experience similar to what they should expect at the World cup.
The Gems are also expected to clash with the President’s Smileys; a team made up of South Africa-based reserve players from the Spar Proteas, President’s Stars (a male team) and other provincial teams.
Makunde said the games will give his squad more game-time to identify key areas that need a boost ahead of the World Cup.
“We have Adelaide Muskwe, a foreign-based player in the squad and other players who still need to gel with others and we need them to do so under such competitive games.
“Only until we have settled our score with the Spar Proteas will I be a happy man because they are the highest competition in Africa so definitely it is going to be a worthy experience.
“Muskwe is going to be part of our advantages because she plays for Seven Stars in the Vitality Netball Super League which is the United Kingdom’s top level, elite netball competition,” said Makunde.