Makunde excited by environment in Gems camp Gems goal-shooter Nalani Makunde (centre) in action for Capital Darters in Australia’s Canberra Netball Association

Ellina Mhlanga 

Senior Sports Reporter 

AUSTRALIA-based shooter Nalani Makunde is excited to be playing for the Zimbabwe netball team as she joins the Gems for the first time for the Netball World Cup campaign.

Zimbabwe will be making their second successive appearance at the 16-team tournament due to take place from July 28 to August 6 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Nedbank-sponsored Gems are polishing up their preparations having begun camp last month mainly with the local-based players. 

“I feel really excited. The opportunity to go to a World Cup only comes once every four years. So I think it’s really exciting for us to get to go and also play in the first World Cup that’s being hosted in Africa. 

“I think we are feeling excited. I think we can take on the challenge and do our best; hopefully climb up the ladder, win some games.

“The rest of the team has been really friendly, really welcoming. It’s great to see a new style of netball and I am getting the chance to adjust and learn and work with new people.

“It’s been good. I think it’s really different to where I am from. I have been living in Australia my whole life so it’s quite different but at the same time the netball community… is the same. So, that’s something that makes me feel comfortable,” said Makunde. 

Makunde plays for Capital Darters based in Canberra, in the Australian Netball Championships competition. 

She also plays for Brisbane South Wildcats in the Hart Sapphire Series in Queensland and is hoping her experience will come in handy in the Gems’ campaign at the World Cup. 

“Well I am hoping that just my knowledge of the style of Australia; I have watched all of the Australian team (players). I watch them very regularly on TV in the professional league. So, I think just my knowledge of what to expect in how they play can hopefully help the Gems,” said Makunde. 

Zimbabwe were drawn in Pool A together with Australia, Fiji and Tonga.

They take on Australia in their first game on July 28. Zimbabwe will then play Fiji the following day and Tonga on July 30 in the preliminaries stage one. 

The Ropafadzo Mutsauki-coached side is scheduled to leave for South Africa on Thursday and play friendly matches against England, Barbados, Scotland and Wales from July 23 to 26. 

“It’s our first time working with Nalani and from what I have seen she is a good player. We had our first session with her yesterday and she proved that she can quickly adjust.

“Even the rest of the team welcomed her and when they were playing together the coordination is there, it’s a matter of maybe a bit of more time (together) but it’s coming up well,” said Mutsauki. 

Another Australia-based shooter Joice Takaidza also joined camp last Friday, completing the Gems squad to travel to Cape Town. 

The senior national side had some friendlies again over the weekend and Mutsauki said they were making positive strides as they wrap up their preparations before departure. 

“We managed to win all two games. It shows the team is now shaping up very well and we are hopeful of the upcoming friendly matches (in South Africa). It will also improve the team because it’s another opportunity to take note of any mistakes and correct them before the tournament starts.

“But so far so good and I am happy with the progress of the team. What is important is team work and team defence, and they are doing well. 

“They are playing a very good game…and as the technical team we are all happy about their performance.”

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