The recent poor showing by the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) national junior team in the African Youth World Cup qualifiers is causing a headache for the association.
While Botswana hosted the African World Cup qualifiers, the local Under-21 team struggled to match their counterparts who were searching for a slot to be part of the Netball Youth World Cup slated for Gaborone 2016.
Botswana has potentially been given an easier path to prepare the team at the Mission Foods Nations Cup 2016 slated for OCBC Arena, Singapore, from September 4 to 10. However, while the junior side coaches may wish to send their inexperienced side to the tournament, it has emerged that the competition marks a platform of ranking nations according to performance.
Botswana has over the past year relegated from 16 th spot in the world to 19th place in the rankings. Other nations competing in the tournament are the likes of Canada, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and neighbours Zambia.
BONA president Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego believes that a positive outcome at the Singapore tournament is critical for both grading the national team and sharpening up the youngsters for the upcoming netball extravaganza.
“It would certainly be good for the Under-21s to get match exposure. We are still exploring how best to accommodate more youngsters in the team for the Mission Cup. These are ranking games therefore we need to balance the importance of getting exposure for the Under-21 youngsters with the rankings,” Lebotse-Sebego told Sunday Standard.
Meanwhile, after a long absence of the local netball league, this weekend marks the return of the BONA My Spar Netball League in the southern and northern regions with both areas eyeing the knockout stage billed for October 2016.
Netball pundits believe the league also has the potential to assist the junior team in preparation for the World Cup.
Lebotse-Sebego said it could only be wise for clubs to field at least two Under-21 players in their matches to give youngsters game time as they prepare for next year. ‘’We would like to see more youngsters getting game time but unlike My Spar My Botswana Super Stars where BONA could make a decision to field two youngsters, it is a challenge with the league as the decision is not in the hands of BONA but with clubs,” said Lebotse-Sebego.
Furthermore, Lebotse Sebego revealed that given the league’s short duration, they were in negotiations with Spar to continue with the partnership for a longer season. ‘’Obviously we would like a longer term sponsorship and Spar will monitor the situation of the current league and advise if they are interested in another season,” concluded Lebotse-Sebego.