The Sunday Mail
Ellina Mhlanga in Liverpool, England
The Gems will need to step up their game this afternoon when they face Northern Ireland in their final Group A match at the on-going Vitality Netball World Cup if Zimbabwe are to avoid slipping into bottom place and blow their chances of progressing, coach Lloyd Makunde has said.
Yesterday, Zimbabwe lost 37-73 to defending champions Australia in their second game at the tournament at the M&S Bank Arena. After a good start on Friday, which saw them beating Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe could not carry the same momentum into yesterday’s game. The Gems seemed to give too much respect to their opponents and turned over several balls, thereby allowing Australia to take an early lead, which the 11-time champions maintained throughout the game.
Goal attack Ursula Ndlovu and goal-shooter Joice Takaidza, who had an outstanding show against Sri Lanka, led the attack in the first two quarters before Pauline Jani and Sharon Bwanali took over in the third quarter.
With the Australian side making sure that supply was cut off Ndlovu, Takaidza had to play away from the goal post, forcing her to shoot from a distance, which led to some mistakes.
The first quarter ended 18-9 in favour of Australia. The defending champions scored another 21 in the second quarter against Zimbabwe’s nine.
They went into half time leading 39-18. With the introduction of Jani and Bwanali, Zimbabwe played much better in the third quarter, managing to restrict Australia and scoring 13 goals.
However, the Gems went to sleep again in the fourth quarter. They were now losing the ball too often.
Height also worked against the Zimbabwean side as both Felistus Kwangwa and Rudo Karume could not match Australia’s goal shooter Caitlin Bassett, who had 92 percent conversion rate. But despite the defeat, Makunde feels his charges gave it their best after making only one change to Friday’s starting line-up. Karume started the game yesterday ahead of Sharleen Makusha.
“I am happy with the girls’ performance. Some mistakes cost us a bit but I am happy with their overall performance.
“It was not what I expected. We played better than expected. I thought the Australians would walk over us but we stood our ground,” said Makunde.
However, Makunde conceded that the Gems lacked consistency in yesterday’s game. “The first quarter was a challenge but they then gained confidence as the game progressed. They started well in the third quarter but then just slumped a bit, that’s why we lost heavily in the last quarter. In the fourth quarter, they actually went to sleep.
“We are going back to the drawing board to make sure that all things will be normal tomorrow. We will definitely get better results tomorrow. We have a late training today (last night ),” said Makunde.
His Australian counterpart, Lisa Alexander, said they had a good challenge from Zimbabwe.
“From Zimbabwe’s performance against Sri Lanka yesterday (Friday), we knew it was going to be a tough game. They gave it to us, so it was terrific, great practice for us.
“It’s typical African style of play, keeping possession and also using all the spaces on the court and being patient working it up. And they didn’t give us a lot of opportunity of ball in the air to get intercepts.
“So we had to work the ground well and we also had to make sure that we were very honest in attack to provide two or three different options for every ball. So extremely great effort by Zimbabwe,” said Alexander.
In the other match, Northern Ireland beat Sri Lanka 67-50. Sri Lanka have so far lost all their matches and they clash with Australia today, who are the favourites to top the group.
Zimbabwe stands a chance of going forward and playing for a better placing in this tournament.
They have to back it with a win again today.
A win will be an advantage as the teams will be carrying through their results from the preliminaries stage one to the next round.
“Tomorrow we want to win on all costs because remember when we go into the second round, we carry our results from the first group to the second. We would want to have a situation whereby we go with two wins just because when we go there we will play three other teams that qualify to get into that group again. But we will carry over our results same as the other teams.
“Its very important to win our game tomorrow, we really need it,” said Makunde.