JOHANNESBURG (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - South Africa and Zimbabwe on Friday begin a two-game series in Johannesburg to determine who will clinch the last qualifying spot for FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
Having finished runners-up of their respective FIBA Africa Zone 6 Groups G and H respectively last month, the two countries have a second chance to book a ticket for FIBA Africa's flagship event in the Republic of Congo in August.
Guard Tawanda Chitsinde, who averaged 9.4 points per game at FIBA AfroBasket, is expected to ignite the Zimbabwe's attack during the qualifiers.
South Africa last appeared at FIBA AfroBasket in 2011 in Madagascar where they stunned Egypt to finish with a 1-4 record.
"I don't think as a coach you ever feel you are ready, but there seems to be an air of confidence among the players," South Africa head coach Craig Gilchrist explained to FIBA.com. "I think they believe they are ready."
Asked whether the qualifier was South African basketball's biggest challenge in recent years, the former international replied: "Financial support and players and coaches being amateurs and having to find time away from their work are two major challenges when trying to prepare properly for international competition for South African Basketball."
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe remain upbeat heading to the qualifier, despite losing two games against Mozambique in their capital of Harare.
"The team is in high spirits, we've got the best support from the minister and the BUZ (Basketball Union of Zimbabwe). We thank them for their support," said Zimbabwe head coach Emmanuel Mukandi. "We should be able to get good results."
The winner of the series between South Africa and Zimbabwe will become the 14th team securing its place in the 16-team FIBA AfroBasket 2017 taking place in Congo-Brazzaville from August 19-30.
They will join reigning champions Nigeria, tournament hosts the Republic of Congo along with qualified teams the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique.
The remaining two places will be determined through a system of allocating wild cards.