ZIMBABWE'S Gems coach Lloyd Makunde has urged his charges to stay focused when they begin their campaign today at the ongoing Africa Netball Championships in Lusaka, Zambia.
Zimbabwe are one of the seven countries vying for the African championship and one of the remaining two tickets to next year's World Cup in Liverpool, England. The other participating countries are defending champions Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and hosts Zambia.
The Gems get the ball rolling with a game against Malawi this morning.
They will then take on Botswana later on in the day.
Zimbabwe, seeking their second title at continental level and qualification for the 2019 World Cup, know it's not going to be an easy task with Malawi ranked sixth in the world coming in as the favourites for the African title.
Malawi automatically qualified for the World Cup because of their ranking.
Botswana have been on the rise as well and the last time they met, Zimbabwe went down 41-43 at the Pent Series in Namibia. But the senior netball side have made it clear they will not be intimidated going into this event and Makunde said they need to stick to their game-plan.
"We were working hard on our team's defence as a whole and if the girls come to the party, there won't be tough games.
"It's like all the games are equally important since we cannot afford to lose any of them.
"The girls just have to play according to instructions. Obviously, we expect tough competition but we have also prepared well.
Zimbabwe, ranked 13th in the world, have had their fair share of success over the last few years, winning their first African championship in 2015.
They have continued to climb up the ladder on the world rankings and have played most of the teams participating at the African Championships on various platforms, including the Pent Series, hosted by Namibia in June where they came second behind the hosts.
Christine Kadandara, Felistas Kwangwa (vice-captain), Rudo Karume, Alice Tewera, Perpetua Siyachitema (captain), Ndaiziveyi Madzikangava, Patricia Mauladi, Claris Kwaramba, Ursula Ndlovu, Pauline Jani, Mercy Mukwadi, Sharon Bwanali.