JOHANNESBURG – Dané van Niekerk believes the South African women’s team won’t succumb to tournament pressure like their male counterparts, citing her players’ laidback attitudes as a primary reason.
Van Niekerk and the rest of the Proteas Women’s team head to England on Friday ahead of the 11th edition of the Women’s Cricket World Cup with levels of self-belief higher amongst the players than at any stage in the past.
Van Niekerk also feels her side won’t be constrained by expectations or the pressure of tournament play, something the men’s team has constantly battled with and which again overwhlemed them at an ICC event, when they were knocked out of the Champions Trophy in the group stages.>
“I feel for the men, the game’s not easy, if it was, everyone would play,” the South African captain said at Cricket SA’s Centre of Excellence Thursday, where the squad wrapped up preparations ahead of its departure.
“I have so much sympathy for them because they are a world class outfit, hopefully we can make the country proud.”
South Africa are widely regarded as ‘dark horses’ for the event, and within the squad there is genuine belief among the players that they are capable of producing something special at the tournament.
“The nice thing about our side, it’s not that the players are laidback, but they take it as it comes. They’re not freaking out before hand, you look at them, the body language is relaxed,” Van Niekerk said.
“It’s like studying for a test; if you know you’ve done your work you go into the test chilled. I guess that’s the mindset, we’re chilled, but the girls have worked hard, we’ve done the preparation and it’s about going there and doing what we do well.”
South Africa will play two warm-up games against Australia and the West Indies next week and open their World Cup campaign against Pakistan at Grace Road in Leicester on June 24.
Coach Hilton Moreeng said he’d also noticed the relaxed atmosphere within the squad and that he was pleasantly surprised how the players were dealing with the increased publicity.
“You get that sense of calmness with the players, which is not something we’ve seen before. Normally, the players know they are going to a World Cup and then the stress comes in, but with this group there’s a sense of calmness, and maybe that’s because they’ve played together for a while.”
In addition there are number of players ranked in the top ten of the women’s game, including Marizanne Kapp, the no.1 bowler in the world.
“We’ve got players ranked among the top 10 batters, we have the no.1 bowler, some top all-rounders, and because that’s happening, the world is seeing that we are a team that can beat any other team on any given day,” said Van Niekerk.
Australia and England remain favourites for the tournament, but last year’s victory for the West Indies in the Women’s World T20 suggested the gap between England and Australia and the rest is closing.
Proteas ICC Women’s World Cup squad: Dané van Niekerk (capt), Trisha Chetty, Moseline Daniels, Nadine de Klerk, Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Lizelle Lee, Sune Luus, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Andrie Steyn, Chloe Tryon, Laura Wolvaardt.