JOHANNESBURG – For a good chunk of her now decade-long international career, Mignon du Preez was the face of women’s cricket in South Africa.
Besides her "normal" duties as the then captain – that included pre and post-match press conferences – she did all the TV and radio talk shows, she appeared on magazine covers and held as high a profile as any female sportsperson in SA. She enjoyed the spotlight – and still does – but these days, she’s no longer the only player associated with the national women’s cricket team and for that she’s very glad.
“It’s nice to see the girls taking responsibility,” smiled 28-year-old Du Preez. “In the past they shied away, but now we are more professional we’ve said you need to be ready to build your own brand.
"In the past there were a few who didn’t really like speaking to (the) media, or they were shy. They’ve done some training and we’re giving everyone an opportunity to be in the limelight. I’m happy to share it with others.”
Sune Luus, current skipper Dane van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail now all have much higher profiles than was the case five years ago. That’s not to say they’re as well known as their male counterparts, but there is an increased awareness of their abilities, something which will grow even more, if, as they believe, they can have a successful World Cup.
Du Preez will be playing at her third World Cup and kicks off the tournament with a landmark game – her 100th – when SA faces Pakistan at Grace Road in Leicester on Sunday. In her time in the team she has seen them go from also-rans, to this year being viewed by many as a "dark horse."
“Ten years ago when I started, we played about one or two games a year, since (last) August I’ve played between 20 and 30 ODIs. It’s chalk and cheese,” explained Du Preez. “It boils down to the investment of Momentum, CSA having a fully contracted team, having girls become a lot more professional. We’re taking it seriously, we’re doing it as a job now, it’s no longer just a hobby and I think that shines through.”
There are increased expectations of what the SA team can achieve in England, not so much from the public, but the team itself. “It’s definitely due to our performances over the last 12 months. We’ve done extremely well in the Champions League that we play, and the ICC Women's Championship,” Du Preez said.
"It’s the best we’ve ever played. We’ve competed well against England, New Zealand, Australia and we’ve beaten them in one form or another. Australia is the only team we haven’t beaten, but we got a tie and lost off the last ball (in the series played Down Under last year)."
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SA’s Achilles heel remains their batting. Although they are a talented unit, they’ve failed to match that talent with consistency – the latter an often used phrase when speaking to the players.
“We’ve been open and honest – we’ve said that’s an area where we’ve struggled. We’ve had a lot of discussions, as a unit we’ve talked about different options. Going into this World Cup, we want to work on it," said Du Preez.
As for her own goals for the tournament, Du Preez is clear about those.
“I just want to be a consistent run-scorer for the team. I’m playing my 100th game at the World Cup, which is something really special.One of the goals, in an ideal world, would be to score a 100 in my 100th game." said Du Preez.
"The team goal is to go and win the World Cup. In the past we’ve gone, where we sat and said ‘ya we can win the World Cup,’ but then when we got there, we weren’t prepared."