Gems coach Ropafadzo Mutsauki wants to improve the team’s fitness levels ahead of the African Netball Championships that will be staged in Botswana next month.
The Zimbabwe team struggled at the Netball World Cup that was played in South Africa mainly due to low fitness levels and the coaches want to work on that aspect as they approach the continental showcase.
The tournament will run from November 26 to December 6 with top teams across Africa battling for honours.
They went to the World Cup targeting a top-four finish but they finished a distant 13th.
“We have taken note of the mistakes we made at the World Cup and we are trying to work on that. The most important thing is on fitness because it determines our confidence and how we are going to perform. Going into the World Cup, our fitness level was not up to scratch and it affected us especially in our first games. Also, we had our preparations a bit late which we should have done earlier, something which again affected us,” Mutsauki said.
He would have wanted to see the team play some friendlies before the African Championships, but admits it may not be feasible.
“For now we may also fail to have friendlies considering the limited time we have before the competition. We just need to beef up the team and work on our fitness and create better combinations. We will select the best from the 21 players we will have in this camp. We will not retain players who are not fit for the competition.”
Some of the players are committed to writing examinations and may not be available for the full duration of the preparations.
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“The challenge we have also on team selection is that some of our players are writing their exams. It affects fitness levels of the team and also having adequate time to gel the players considering that we are left with less than a month to come up with a final squad.”
Mutsauki also highlighted their target going into this competition is having a top-three finish since they usually finish on fourth position in most editions.
Stand-in captain Progress Moyo highlighted that the team needs to improve confidence levels.
“The training is going on well and we are really working hard. It’s the first week, so we didn’t really focus much on game play but we needed to get everyone to almost the same fitness level and gel up as a team. We are now starting to get into game play and we need to work on our confidence and believe in ourselves and take each game as it comes regardless of the opponent we will be facing,” she said.
Currently, 17 players are in camp with the team captain Felistus Kwangwa set to join the camp together with some players who are still writing examinations.
Meanwhile, for the first time, this year’s edition will be a mixed tournament as men’s teams will also be part of the competition.
Tapiwa Chirenda will be in charge of the men’s team.