BY MAGRETH RUZVIDZO ZIMBABWE qualified for their second successive Netball World Cup after defeating their neighbours Zambia 59-41 in a third-place playoff match at the Africa Netball World Cup Qualifiers in Pretoria, South Africa yesterday.
History repeated itself as four years ago, the Gems yet again defeated Zambia 64-41 to secure their maiden Netball World Cup appearance at the 2019 edition in Liverpool, England where they went on to finish in eighth position.
In earlier games in the qualifiers, the Gems defeated Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania but lost to South Africa and Malawi which left them needing an outright win over Zambia to seal a place in Cape Town next July and August.
They made the best of the opportunity to secure a ticket for the continental showpiece next year in Cape Town.
Four African teams will compete in the tournament. Two qualified automatically, South Africa as hosts, and Uganda on superior rankings. Malawi and Zimbabwe are the two qualifying teams from the qualifiers in Pretoria.
The Gems were cheered on in the final by their cricket counterparts, the Lady Chevrons who are in South Africa for a limited overs series against the South Africa Emerging side.
The match was evenly matched at the start but the quality in the Gems side eventually stood out as they made use of turnovers that came their way to take a 16-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Zambia came back stronger in the second quarter, to reduce the deficit to just one point at some stage but the Gems finished strongly to head to halftime leading 30-26.
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Australia-based goal shooter Joice Takaedza put up her best performance in the competition as she bossed around the goal shooting circle, netting almost every goal opportunity that came her way.
She was, however, later substituted by Sharon Bwanali to increase movement in the goal shooting circle.
As expected, the Gems proved too strong for Zambia as they stretched the lead netting 13 goals and ending the quarter leading 43-32. The fourth quarter sealed the victory for the team as they finished the match with an 18-goal lead.
Zimbabwe’s assistant coach Tatenda Shinya was over the moon with the win, thanking all supporters, especially the ladies cricket team who came to support the Gems as they played the deciding match.
“I just want to thank the Lord for what he has done for us as team Zimbabwe. Many thanks also go to our supporters, thumbs up to you Zimbabwe, we are proud that we have made it again to the World Cup. We are promising that we are not going there to participate but to deliver and come back victorious,” said Shinya.
Gems wing-defender Claris Kwaramba was named Player of the Match.