The Zimbabwe national basketball team is confident of upstaging South Africa when the two neighbours meet in a two-game Afro-Basketball playoff qualifier in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the weekend.
BY SPORTS REPORTER
The Emmanuel Mukandi-coached side failed to get automatic passage to the prestigious showpiece, set for Congo from August 19 to 30, after a two-legged loss to Mozambique last month, which saw them finishing second in Group A.
They now have to beat their neighbours, who finished second in Group G to secure the ticket, and captain, Taurai Chitsinde, is confident they will qualify.
“We are confident that we will win because we are well prepared, we have great respect for how they play their game, but we know what we are capable of and what we want to do,” he said.
It appears Zimbabwe have pulled out all the stops in their bid to qualify for the finals after they invited France-based star, Vitalis Chikoko (pictured) for the two matches.
The team is expected to leave for Johannesburg today.
“We respect how invested they are as a nation. We respect their players, whom we get to watch on television. They are a good side, us playing them presents an equal opportunity to compete at their level and preferably better to come out top, thus qualifying for Congo.
We are capable of holding our own.”
Mukandi’s side will have to contend with playing away from home. Chitsinde admitted that it would definitely give the hosts an advantage.
“Certainly, in all sports, they call it home court ‘advantage’. It has its pros,” Chitsinde said.
According to Chitsinde, the experience Zimbabwe gained from the Fiba Afro-Basket 2015 will definitely come in handy to help them overcome South Africa.
“Poise. Composure. We have not been at that kind of platform like ever, so there was a lot of adrenaline involved in 2015. We had a chance to see how things are done at that level, approach most importantly. We are not the same anymore to that experience.”
The winner between Zimbabwe and South Africa will join Angola, Cameroon, hosts Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, reigning champions Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda.
The other two slots will be determined via a wild-card process to complete the 16-team line-up that will battle for the coveted trophy in summer.