Veronica Gwaze in POLOKWANE, South Africa
AFTER suffering a surprise setback against Zambia on Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s Gems bounced back to winning ways last night when they overcame Namibia 62-43 at the ongoing Diamond Challenge netball tournament here.
An elated coach Lloyd Makunde described the win as a major boost in the build-up to their massive clash against favourites and hosts South Africa tomorrow.
The Gems opened their account with a victory over Botswana at Ngoako Sports Complex in Polokwane, but came a cropper against Zambia in their second assignment, with their northern neighbours handing them a 57-51 defeat.
Zimbabwe now sit on four points on the log standings and are in a close fight with SA President’s XII and Zambia for second position. Namibia and Botswana remain at the bottom without a point.
In last night’s match, both sides scored 13 goals in a close first quarter.
Makunde would not have been too pleased with this team’s start top the match. There was a marked improvement though in the second quarter as Makunde roped in new Gem, Goal Keeper Sharleen Makusha, who brought life to the defence and by half-time they had opened a 31-22 lead.
While things did improve slightly for Namibia after half time, they failed to keep up with the pace.
The Gems’ passing was wayward at times in the third quarter, punctuated by contact fouls and break-ins for the mid-court players with a bit of poor co-ordination, but the result remained in their favour.
Four minutes into the last quarter, Namibian goal keeper Kutako Emmy was sent out of the game after receiving the first cautionary suspension of the tournament for persistent fowls.
Makunde acknowledged that his World Cup-bound squad were desperate for a win against Namibia.
“We really needed this win as it will work as a confidence booster for my squad as we brace for the game against both South African teams.
“The defeat against Zambia somehow demoralised the girls and a win is what we actually needed to ensure that confidence is restored to some level,” Makunde said.
“Against Zambia, things were a little glitch at the mid and during the first quarter, the same did happen again, but as the game progressed, the changes brought some life.
“Ahead of the clash against SA President’s XII today, am sure they (Gems) will be more confident because it is one of the most crucial games which we should not lose,” he said.
If Zimbabwe lose today’s game against the SA President’s xii, they may fall out of the race for second place on the log given the seeming insurmountable task against the hosts’ World Cup-bound Spar Proteas, who are ranked best in Africa. Despite their loss, Namibia coach Tiivera Manuelle hailed her charges.