Tadious Manyepo in CAPE TOWN, South Africa

THE Gems might have punched below their weight in the just-ended Netball World Cup in South Africa, but they take home plenty of positives.

Zimbabwe finished 13th in the 16-team global showcase at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, after winning the play-off final against Barbados last Friday.

But for a side that came into this jamboree looking to finish in the top four, having nailed eighth place in their debut four years ago, it was a bit disappointing.

However, there is no taking away the valuable lessons they learnt from the global fiesta with most of the debutantes in the team showing great character.

Beaula Hlungwani, Elizabeth Mushore, Nicole Muzanenamo and Assah Zimusi showed some nerves in the early parts of the tournament, but once they settled, they gave the technical team reason to believe the future is bright.

Hlungwani, who brought some much-needed industry in mid-court throughout the tournament, said she never thought she would establish herself in the team.

“Honestly the experience has been mind-blowing. I really enjoyed the tournament. Of course, we were looking at finishing in the top half in this fiesta, but we couldn’t manage to do as well as we wanted,” said Hlungwani.

“I was asking myself is it really me. I was scared of the unknown at first, but my teammates, especially those who have been to the World Cup before, helped calm me down. It really helped a lot and at the end of the day, we all enjoyed the tournament. “

Wing defender Zimusi, who surprised everyone, including herself, with top-of-the-shelf performances, saluted the technical team for their faith in her.

“I resumed netball only two years ago having aborted it in 2018. I never thought I would be called into the national team, let alone for the World Cup,” she said.

“The World Cup was an eye-opening adventure for me personally. It was tough, but at the end of the day we realised some of the things that we can do better going forward.

“This was a global stage and you would see the smallest mistakes that one normally gets away with in the league can cost you an important match.

“The lessons are plenty, but I am really proud of myself. I never thought I would be able to handle such pressure that comes with playing at this stage.”

Goal keeper Elizabeth Mushore, one of the only two players in the Gems squad, along with captain Felisitus Kwangwa, to have played literally every minute in the seven games Zimbabwe played, expressed the same sentiments.

“I thought I would play sparingly, but in the end I played every game.

“We didn’t achieve what we wanted, but the experience and lessons we got out of the competition are massive,” said Mushore.

“The tournament was very tough, yet very exciting. At a personal level, I am really delighted to have managed to play in all the matches and to have been able to play well.”

The Gems lost all their three first stage preliminary games against Australia, Fiji and Tonga. They are scheduled to return home tomorrow.

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