African teams impress at Netball Youth World Cup
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Africa’s four representatives at the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup put up a strong performance and finished inside the top half in the 20-team tournament.
Hosts, Botswana finished 10th after a strong start which fizzled, allowing neighbours, Zimbabwe to steal position nine on the penultimate day.
Botswana had appeared on course for a quarterfinal berths after a sensational 48-46 victory over fourth ranked Jamaica. But an inferior goal ratio saw the home side finish third in Pool C behind Uganda and Jamaica.
Their final match, a fight for position nine and 10, saw Botswana lose 56-41 to finish in what would be considered a disappointing 10th after the bright start.
Botswana lost only two matches in the entire competition, while Zimbabwe, lost three and won only once in the group stages, before finishing strongly in the battle for rankings.
“We are happy to be in the top 10 in the world. It is a great achievement even though we lost our last game which we wanted to win and be in position nine after what my team displayed throughout the tournament. I wish the technical team can do something with this team to keep it moving,” Botswana coach, Bothlole Mmopi said.
Zimbabwe sprung a surprise after quietly arriving at the tournament and losing their first three games.
Zimbabwe coach, Ropafadzo Mutsauki said they had performed to expectations and was delighted with the ninth place finish.
Mutsauki, whose side was making its debut at the competition, said it was gratifying to finish with a win. “It is quite exciting. We enjoyed the tournament. Going forward, we will draft some of the young players into the senior team,” she said.
South Africa was the best placed African team after finishing sixth while Uganda was seventh. There were no surprises at the top as New Zealand retained their trophy after a pulsating final against Australia. New Zealand won 60-57 to equal Australia’s four titles.
Third ranked England won bronze after seeing off the challenge of surprise package Fiji, who finished fourth. Jamaica, seeded fourth, finished fifth, and failed to stamp their authority.
Meanwhile, Botswana defied odds and hosted a seamless tournament, which attracted record crowds, particularly whenever the hosts were involved.
Tickets were sold out days before Botswana’s home matches while the final, featuring New Zealand and Australia attracted a full house, which tickets sold out 24hours before the Sunday match.
Fiji hosts the next World Cup in 2021.