The Botswana National Netball team charters into an unknown territory as they begin their quest to qualify for the World Netball Championships, billed for Singapore in July next year.
The team left for Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday (Saturday) to take part in the African Qualifying Championships. The games begin tomorrow (Monday) and are expected to conclude on Sunday.
Speaking to Standard Sport, the president of Botswana Netball Association (BONA) said the local ladies are ready for the challenge ahead. She says the team has had enough time to bond after being in camp for four weeks. She says the time in camp has also given the team’s technical bench, lead by Head Coach Seipei Gaelesiwe, enough time to fine tune the team.
Lebotse says going into the championships, Botswana’s main aim is to qualify for the world championships, adding that anything other than this would be deemed a failure.
She says another aim is for the country to use the qualifying championships to improve its rankings. On paper, Botswana, along with South Africa, will be expected to qualify.
The country is ranked third in Africa and 18th in the world behind South Africa and Malawi respectively.
With Malawi having automatically qualified by virtue of coming fifth (5) at the last world championships, it is expected that only South Africa, which is perched at the top of African rankings and 6th in the world, will give Botswana a torrid time at the championships.
Despite the country being ranked highly in Africa, Lebotse is cautious of the challenge posed by the nine other teams in the qualifying games besides South Africa.
She says most of the countries like Uganda and Tunisia are a closed book to Botswana as they have not faced them in more than a decade.
“The last time we faced them was in 1999 during the All Africa games. We do not know their strengths,” she told Standard Sport. She says apart from these countries, another potential challenge will be from the Namibians. Lebotse says while Namibia’s netball has been in turmoil in the past, the country has been rebuilding and will be a possible party spoiler going into the games. While admitting that lack of international friendly games may affect them, Lebotse, however, said they have had enough game preparations.
She says they have played local male teams in their preparations and did well as they won.
“We played male teams because men are physically stronger and faster than women and we believed they would give the girls better preparations,” she informed Standard Sport.
Lebotse, who is also the president of African Netball Federations, says a total of eleven (11) countries will be vying for the two places on offer at the championships. The countries are: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Lebotse further added that it is the first time that African countries will be engaged in this competition. It is also the first to be held by the newly constituted Africa Netball Federations, which Lebotse heads. The federations committee was elected at its inaugural Annual General Meeting held in South Africa in May earlier this year.