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MBABANE – The country’s senior national netball team’s dream of competing on the biggest stage is up in smoke.

Zambia’s Copper Queens came out tops with a 14-goal difference in a 64-50 victory over Eswatini at the end of their second match in the Africa Region Netball World Cup Qualifiers played yesterday morning in Pretoria, South Africa. Following the setback, the country’s outfit are officially out of the race to the World Cup. This was the second upset for Eswatini, who tasted defeat at the hands of the mighty Malawi ‘Queens’ on Monday. Malawi won 50-69. The loss to Zambia shuttered Eswatini’s dream of qualifying for the World Cup which will for the first time in history be held on African soil in Cape Town, South Africa.

Zambia proved their dominance over the locals from the onset of the match, leading 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. They stretched their lead in the next quarter by adding 17 goals. The locals netted nine to take the score to 33-21 in favour of the Copper Queens. Tactical changes saw centre player Abigail Simelane strengthening Eswatini’s wing defence and that limited the opposition’s walk-over and scoring margin. Eswatini bagged 15 goals and Zambia took home 16 in the third set. Coach Nhlanhla ‘Friction’ Mayisela’s was a little too late to control the damage that unfolded in the first two quarters and the final quarter effort was a mere race against the clock.  Trusted goal shooter (GS) Vumile Vilakati’s joint effort with Jabu Khathwane yielded 15 goals for Eswatini and the Zambians were one goal ahead. Zambia celebrated their second victory with a total score of 64-50 at the expense of Eswatini.

The Copper Queens led by Coach Charles Zulu will play their last group game tomorrow against Malawi and Eswatini will face Kenya at 4pm in a fight for fourth and fifth positions. The local coach blamed their defeat to the lack of experience, but assured that they would invest in a new crop of players going forward. “We played according to our capabilities. We played against a team that is very experienced, as they have been training together for 10 years. They were number two in last Africa Netball Championships. We knew that we would have it tough. Experience was against us. We are bringing a new crop of players to the team and working on developing them. We are hoping to do better in the next tournament. We are now playing for positions. Anybody who understands netball in Eswatini would agree that it was a tough assignment,” Mayisela said. The national team coach further appealed for national support despite their defeat and welcomed positive criticism from the netball family and supporters back at home.

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