A poor start at the Africa Netball Cup in Namibia had a happy ending after the local netball side, Dinaledi registered two consecutive wins.
The girls lost their first six matches but managed to salvage some pride in the remaining two, beating Tanzania and Zimbabwe. It was the silver lining at the end of the tournament that will encourage Dinaledi ahead of the 2023 World Cup qualifiers next year.
It could have been a disastrous trip to Namibia where regional powerhouse, South Africa emerged victorious, but the two victories provide a glimmer of hope. Local netball has been inactive for the last three years, which further complicated preparations. Botswana finished eighth out of nine countries. Botswana Netball Association (BONA) spokesperson, Mokeresete Mokeresete admitted it was not an easy road to Namibia. “It was not an easy ride to the championships as we had a long lay off being inactive which led to lack of match fitness, physical fitness and mental strength.
The last time we played our league was in 2018, which is three years back. The time we had the team in camp was not long enough to effectively address all aspects needed for preparing a team for a competition of this magnitude,” Mokeresete said. He said it is not easy to find the right combinations to win games as the team needed to play more to get its rhythm back. “We have, therefore, resolved in principle, to find ways and means to keep this team together long enough in both local and international camps and even organise more match practices to bring the side into the right shape before next year’s major international events.
Another good development is that our players will soon be back in action,” he said.
Mokeresete said the start of the league should be good news for the game, which has taken steps backwards due to inactivity. The women’s national team has a chance to redeem its pride when the Africa World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Netball Cup are played next year. Coach, Sithulile Mlotshwa said the competition was tough. “The championship was highly competitive as it was difficult to predict the results of any game. Low ranked countries outperformed themselves particularly Namibia and Kenya. Namibia, which is ranked number 24, finished above Zimbabwe that is ranked 12,” she said. Mlotshwa attributed Botswana’s slow start to fitness issues. “We started on a low key due to match fitness. However, after the sixth game, we found our rhythm and the right combinations to perform well. In the last two matches, we gave a good account of ourselves and recorded a famous win against Zimbabwe. It wasn’t an easy ride as our players lack match fitness,” Mlotshwa said.
She said they could not do strength training in a short space of time but instead concentrated on game strategies. “As the technical team, we were impressed with the growth the players showed as their performance kept improving as the games progressed. Fatima Dino was the most outstanding player, having more deflections and interceptions. Hilda Seemo made her debut and was outstanding against a sixth-ranked Malawi.
If given more training on skill development, she will definitely be one of the best wing attack players,” she said. Mlotshwa said the key was to play more games as it took them six games to get things right. “That being said, it calls for having this team together long enough and having more match practices to bring the team into the right shape before major international events," she said.