Queens and Gems book World Cup spots

TWO more nations have stamped their tickets to the 2023 Netball World Cup after the African regional qualifiers were completed over the weekend. Nine nations competed in the regional qualifiers with Uganda opting not to compete having already qualified for the World Cup, with South Africa also having qualified by still competing, and ultimately winning the Gold Medal at the event.

It was always likely a case of who would finish third given Malawi is a cut above the rest of the field, with the Queens earning second place, while Zimbabwe ensured it was heading back to the World Cup, grabbing the Bronze Medal. The Gems earned the right to head to their second World Cup – having finished 15th at the last one – by defeating Zambia by 10 goals in the Bronze Medal match. Previously the Gems had only lost to South Africa by 17 goals in the group stage, and 21 goals to Malawi in the semi-finals.

The two groups were split into five and four teams respectively, with Zimbabwe and South Africa joined by Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania in Pool A, while Zambia, Kenya and Eswatini were in Pool B alongside Malawi. After the round robin playing all the other teams in the group was completed, the top two nations from each Pool made their way into the semi-finals. Malawi took on Zimbabwe first and came away with a 62-41 victory, while South Africa unsurprisingly crushed Zambia by 31 goals (74-43). Malawi’s victory ensured its World Cup qualification spot by reaching the Gold Medal match, while the winner of Zimbabwe-Zambia would grab the last spot. That of course was Zimbabwe, recording a 59-49 victory.

South Africa was so dominant that the SPAR Proteas scooped up the individual player awards. Shadine Van der Merwe (best defender), Khanyisa Chawane (best midcourt) and Elmere van der Berg (best shooter) all stepped up throughout the tournament. After missing out on reaching the Commonwealth Games semi-finals, it was a big confidence booster for the SPAR Proteas as a way or warming up for the 2023 Netball World Cup in their home nation. Coach Dorette Badenhorst said it was a surreal experience to play in front of home fans.

“It’s just amazing playing in front of your own crowd again, it was a very long time,” Badenhorst said after the victory. “You know when you have to play against 6000 people against you, it’s bad but how amazing was this. I’m so grateful the World Cup is in our own country. I mean how can we lose with supporters like this?

“I’m just grateful we didn’t disappoint them and we actually played good netball this whole week. “We played with all the 12 players and that is the most important thing for these qualifiers, making sure we have depth, to put anyone on court. I am just thankful for the supporters, I thank the team for showing a lot of guts.”

Malawi coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa said it was vital to qualify for next year’s event, with the continent making history by hosting its first World Cup.

“It was very important for us to qualify, the World Cup is another stage and pertaining that the World Cup will be happening for the first time in Africa and it would have been hard to miss playing in the first World Cup on African soil,” Chawinga-Kaluwa said. “We needed to be part and parcel of the World Cup being organised in South Africa. It’s amazing, the World Cup has never taken place on African soil, so any person living in Africa should be happy about this. This is a better moment where we can prove to European teams that Africa is capable of doing this. That means in the future they will use this as an example for another African country to host.”

Zimbabwe Gems coach Ropafadzo Mutsauki said he believed his team could crack into the top six one day, and hoped that by qualifying for next year’s World Cup, the Gems would build confidence and exposure against the world’s best nations to become even better.

“As a team, we’re happy. It’s a great honour to qualify for the second time,” he said. “We give credit to the players. They did well, they worked hard for this. Everyone was ready for this, the whole of Zimbabwe was prepared for this day and the girls didn’t disappoint. They did their best and we are in, which is good.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments