When the Africa Regional Qualifiers kick off this afternoon, the country’s expectations will rest on 12 women to carry the hopes of the country. After last year’s disastrous Africa Championships when the country failed to shine, all eyes will be on the girls when they take on Zimbabwe in the opening game of the qualifiers.
Having gone into last year’s tournament as the continent’s third ranked team, the local girls got a rude awakening, losing their matches to lowly ranked teams. The results ultimately saw countries like Uganda and Tanzania leapfrogging Botswana in the rankings.
The match against Zimbabwe will be a chance for the Botswana ladies to redeem themselves from the narrow 51-49 loss to Zimbabwe during the African Championships held in Malawi. Ahead of this afternoon’s games, the country appears to have a talented team made of both experience and youth.
Leading the team from the front will be the team’s Goal attacker and captain Portia Rasekhumba. Having led the team that failed miserably at last year’s African Championships as the team captain, the versatile Goal Attacker will be a go to girl if Botswana is to make any tangible headway during the games.
Capable of playing in both goal attack and wing attack, the Botswana netball team’s captain is not only gifted but is also a prolific scorer and will be instrumental in Botswana’s attack. Helping her in the role will be another highly talented and versatile player, Tumisang Bagidi. Just as slightly built as Rasekhumba, Bagidi is a very mobile and talented player who has an eye for goal.
Long touted as a long term replacement for Rasekhumba, the young Goal Attacker is also just as comfortable playing in Wing Attack as she is in Goal Attack. While the duo will be tasked with creating and scoring for team Botswana, the biggest burden of scoring will go to the country’s two outright Goal Shooters, Tebogo Radipotsane and Hildah Binang. While Radipotsane is a very experienced player who has plied her trade in the professional league, Binang is a contemporary of Bagidi and is still relatively young.
However, both the goal shooters are experienced and battle hardened campaigners and much will be expected from them just as much as it will be from their fellow forwards. As with their forward line, in the midcourt, Botswana has largely gone for experienced campaigners with only Gosego Tsele being new to the national team set up. Apart from Tsele, the Botswana midcourt will comprise the experienced trio of Gagotheko Tshelametsi, Goitsemodimo Dikinya and Tshegofatso Tlhabuswe. In defense, the netball team has gone all out for experience with Ntebogang Motlakaloso, Francinah Eyman, Florah Keeditse and Kelebogile Mangole.
While all are a talented lot, Motlakaloso will be the favourite to be in the starting lineup. Though the youngest of the defenders, the 22 year-old youngster is a very experienced campaigner, having been in the national setup since she was just 17. The defender is also one of the country’s few players with experience of playing professional netball, having played in the Netball Singapore Super League. The Botswana senior netball team will be led by Neo Kebuang as the team coach.