Young Gems defy odds

19 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Young Gems defy odds

The Sunday Mail

Sports Reporter

A JOURNEY that started last year with the agony of failing to travel to Lesotho for the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games due to Covid-19 has finally yielded results.

The Zimbabwe junior team bagged gold at the just-ended Confederation of Southern African Netball Associations (COSANA) tournament in Malawi, having won three out of their four matches.

Young Gems coach Simbarashe Mlambo believes the disappointment of failing to travel last year had spurred on his charges at the recent games. “The disappointment somehow switched them into fierce mode, so when we returned to camp, they were ready to unleash that sting,” Mlambo said.

Given that his team was largely composed of rookies, he felt they performed beyond expectation. The tournament also acted as an assessment platform in preparation for the AUSC Region 5 Games scheduled for Malawi in December.

“They showed great strength but given more time and opportunity, they can do better.

“With each game, they improved to show some resilience and determination. They managed the pressure … the home crowd did not give them much peace as well.”

He, however, still reckons more still needs to be done before they become the genuine article. He emphasised the need to improve on endurance, coordination and mental aptitude.

“The games were tough, we needed a lot of endurance; however, most of these girls are young and new to the international stage, which made it tough to handle the one-hour games,” he said.

Zimbabwe were hugely dependent on their mid-court where wing-attacker Faith Mutero, who is also the youngest in the squad, justified her presence in the first seven with some fine showings. Tall goal-shooter Thandazile Ndlovu also showed maturity as she played a crucial role, ensuring her shots were on target.

She also emerged the Goal Shooter of the Tournament.

“She had the height and the shots to give us the crucial goals. However, the squad in general was young and at the end of the day, age had some effect because they lacked quick decision-making.

“Mentally, they need to improve and it is also part of the coaches’ job to do that. Also, there was a bit of lack of coordination in the defence, but otherwise the potential is there.”

After using the Malawi tourney to assess his charges, Mlambo feels they also need more time together to work on their weaknesses and craft.

While the juniors excelled, the Gems struggled and picked just two wins out of six games.

Their coach, Ropafadzo Mutsauki, believes they put up a good fight.

“The team played well especially against Malawi. They put up a good fight and we were able to identify areas that we need to work on,’’ he said.

The Gems beat Namibia twice, winning 38-46 and 45-41. Mutsauki was, however, not impressed by the margins.

“The margins are a clear message that more still needs to be done, especially in the mid-court and shooting.

“We at times ran out of legs; our fitness level needs to be worked on. Along the way, the girls also failed to play according to our expectations,” he said.

“By August, when we go for qualifiers, I am confident the team will be strong.”

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