The Zimbabwe netball Gems who are in camp preparing for the 2018 African Championships to be held in Lusaka, Zambia are hoping to emulate the 2015 team which became African champions after easing past Tanzania in their final round-robin match at the Botswana netball courts.

Veteran goal defender Felistas Kangwa pledged to mark her return to the Gems from a long injury lay-off in style by winning the African Championships slated for the 13th to the 18th of this month in Zambia.

The African Championships will also double up as 2019 Liverpool, England World Cup qualifiers.

The Zimbabwe team which is in its final week of preparations before departing for Zambia on the 9th of next month played a friendly match against a men’s team made up of mostly Sparrows team members at the Mbare Netball Complex.

Coaches, Lloyd Makunde and Ropafadzo Mutsauki, who believe they have done everything to prepare the girls both mentally and physically, said this week they will be working on combinations before deciding on the final starting seven.

Vice-captain Felistas Kwangwa who also defends for 2017 Netball Super League champions Correctional Queens said the players are aware of the highly competitive nature of competition at the African Championships and want to qualify for the World Cup.

“Last time we lost to Uganda but we are better prepared for their tall sharp shooter who gave us problems. We have a better game plan and strategy to counter them,” she said.

A Sparrows men’s side gave the girls a good run for their money as they matched them both physically and tactically not to mention skills.

“The men’s league starts in September and this is part of our preparations as well. We are happy to play the Gems as it helps change the gender perception and myths about netball as a game,” said some of the Sparrows players.

The Gems are now a mixture of youth and experience following the addition of several youngsters to make it stronger and ensure continuity.

Veterans Kwangwa, Ndaizivei Madzikangava, captain and assistant coach, wing attack Perpetual Siyachitema, Tatenda Dziva, Paidamoyo Tinoza, and sharp shooter Pauline Jani are, however, still around to give leadership and guidance to the youngsters who include centre Savannah, goal attackers Mercy Mukwadi and 23 year-old Ursula Ndlovu of Harare City Queens.

The Gems won the fifth edition of the tournament with a 37-28 win over Tanzania and then followed this up with another win at Pent Series in Namibia in 2017 winning all their matches to claim gold.