Four years ago in Sydney, the She Cranes came eighth. They’ve bettered that by one place this time around, while for Zimbabwe, this was a more than respectable end to their first ever World Cup campaign.
For both teams, this was their final game of the tournament, but the first time playing against one another at this level.
The first quarter looked like it would see Uganda convincingly take the lead as they – led by Mary Nuba Cholock and Peace Proscovia – established a three-goal lead.
They scored 14 times across the quarter to maintain that three-goal advantage after the first 15 minutes, but Zimbabwe had begun to cut the deficit, clawing back admirably to stay in the match.
That fighting spirit from the Zim Gems continued into the second quarter. While they didn’t manage to reduce Uganda’s advantage, and the leaders in the contest always looked comfortable, Zimbabwe continued to move the ball around the court well and made it a contest.
The battle between the two African nations was only being added to by the vibrant support from the stands for each nation, which has become a familiar sight at this World Cup – a record-breaking one for the African teams.
Uganda were able to stretch their lead out in the second quarter, with Stella Oyella shooting at 100% after replacing Cholock, to help to take the half-time scoreline to 29-20 in the She Cranes’ favour.
As the third quarter got underway, the teams – through Proscovia and Joice Takaidza – traded goals, but the Zim Gems were able to step up a level as the quarter progressed.
The deficit was down to five at one point, when Takaidza scored Zimbabwe’s 37th of the contest, but a strong finish to the quarter from the She Cranes saw Oyella score three times in a row to give her side a 45-37 lead.
That advantage increased in the early stages of the final quarter, but – like the relentless drumming coming from their fans in the stands – Zimbabwe refused to back down.
The game exemplified the fantastic spirit that both teams have brought to the tournament, and despite Zimbabwe ultimately falling short – 58-47 – their determination to stay in the contest deserves much praise.
Uganda ended the tournament in winning form, but as both sides danced off court arm-in-arm, the contribution of both to the Vitality Netball World Cup couldn’t be over-stated.
Uganda’s Mary Nuba Cholock said:
“It’s been amazing, and so competitive from day one. Africa is rising – though we are competing with each other, we come from Africa, and we like to keep that bond together.”
Zimbabwe’s Ursula Ndlovu said:
“It’s been a great noise (inside the stadium). What I like about it is that it motivates us more. We are more focused; that’s how we motivate ourselves.
“If I don’t dance, I won’t be in form. That’s how I motivate myself. That’s our motto; that’s what we always do. It was a big celebration. We tried hard to match them but the best thing is to motivate ourselves with doing the best we can do.”