Botswana’s senior national team will have to more than punch above their weight if they are to make it into the top eight at next year’s World Netball Championships.
The local ladies have been drawn in what may be termed the group of death for the championships, which are billed for the 3rd to the 12th of July 2011 in Singapore.
During a draw that was held on the sidelines of the FairPrice Foundation Nations Cup, popularly known as the Six Nations Cup in Singapore, Botswana drew netball powerhouses, Jamaica and South Africa as well as the hosts Singapore.
Speaking to Standard Sport, the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) president, Tebogo Lebotse, was optimistic that the local girls can still make it into the top eight at the tournament.
“All we have to do is to win at least two of the three games and we will make it into the top eight,” Lebotse said. “All we have to do is to put more focus on the games that we have the highest possibility of winning, against South Africa and Singapore. If we win those two, we will be in the top eight,” she further added.
She, however, said this does not mean that they will have to let Jamaica steamroll over the local girls, only that they must not focus too much on beating Jamaica, which may come at a cost.
Jamaica is seeded third in the tournament and is the highest ranking in the group, with South Africa also ranking in the top six worldwide.
While the local girls have played both South Africa and Singapore, the highly rated Jamaica will be an uncharted territory for the local girls. Botswana has never beaten South Africa in all their previous encounters but they are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their southern neighbours, something which may work well for our ladies.
In fact, when the local ladies came from the world championships qualifiers in Pretoria this year, they were optimistic they can beat the South Africans and even said they wish to pool them in their group. Concerning Singapore, the last time Botswana met them was in 2007 during the Six Nations’ Cup, which is annually hosted by Singapore, where Botswana prevailed. However, two years in sports is a long time and things may have changed for Singapore netball.
“We are aware that Singapore netball association has acquired a full time international coach to train their national team and we expect them to be a different team, but I still believe we stand a better chance against them,” Lebotse added.
She says, funds allowing, they will also seek to find an experienced international coach to work with the local ladies senior national team coach and players as part of preparations. She says they will also have to divert most of the grant money they get from the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and other sponsors to boost the national team preparations.
For her part, senior national team coach Seipei Gaelesiwe also expressed confidence that the team can make it into the top eight of the world championships.
According to Gaelesiwe, should the team get enough preparations, they can make a good assault at their ambition. The coach further informed Standard Sport that due to the fact that this has been a very hectic year for netball, with the league and national team engagements, she has decided to give her players the whole of December to recuperate ahead of the rigors of next year’s schedule.
“I have, however, talked to the girls regarding what they need to do to keep their fitness levels,” Gaelesiwe said.
According to Gaelesiwe, she has also advised that the ladies should have time at the gym to improve their physical strength. The coach further told Standard Sport that her main area of concern going into the championships will be the local ladies’ mental strength; something which she says was their main weakness against South Africa at the championships qualifiers.
Meanwhile, the coach has appealed to the public and the corporate world to help current sponsors and support the national team with funds to ensure they have better preparations for the games.