The Proteas Women had a dream run at the World Cup, going all the way to the semi-finals. Photo: Reuters

Dane van Niekerk took another hat-trick this week, playing for the Sydney Sixers in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia.

It wasn't only a reminder of what a stellar player she is, but also of what a great year it has been for the South African women’s team.

This year has been a mostly disappointing one for South African cricket - the men’s team’s tour of England was largely a horror show from the ICC Champions Trophy to the Test series against the English. 

There was the enormous embarrassment, on Cricket South Africa’s part in failing to host the T20 Global League. The only shining light has been Van Niekerk and her team, and specifically their unexpected run to the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in England in June.

In doing so, they raised their profile by taking themselves from inside pages to the back pages and by the time they had made the semi-final they were on the front too.

It was certainly a tribute to Van Niekerk, her players, the coaching staff - led by Hilton Moreeng - the sponsors and Cricket South Africa’s development systems that the national women’s team were able to perform as well as they did.

No longer is Mignon du Preez - very much a pioneer in South African cricket - the sole face of the women’s game in this country. Certainly in Australia, Van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp, who also plays at the Sixers, are highly regarded and well-respected cricketers.

Out of that World Cup emerged the special talent that is Laura Wolvaardt, who as a result of her fine performances there, earned a contract at the Big Bash too, signing up for the Brisbane Heat.

With the success they had in 2017, there is also now greater expectation.

Kapp, Van Niekerk, Du Preez and Lizelle Lee have all done reasonably well in the opening weeks of the Big Bash and they will be expected to bring that form back to the South African team when it next takes to the field for three one-day internationals and five T20 internationals against India in the new year.

There is a World T20 in the West Indies in November next year that will be the primary focus for Van Niekerk’s team, and there will be greater scrutiny and expectation that the team can go one further at the tournament than they managed in the 50-over version in England this year.

The SA women’s team has been the major highlight for South African cricket this year, their development and improvement will be closely monitored in 2018, something Van Niekerk will certainly appreciate.

The Star

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