Johannesburg — The Women’s T20 World Cup may only get underway at Newlands on Friday, but for the Proteas their journey to immortality has begun.
Sune Luus’ side were given an official send-off from Stellenbosch on Tuesday, and now the countdown to the first ball under the watch of Table Mountain is fully underway.
The expectation is reaching fever pitch with the hosts expected to at least match their last appearance at the T20 World Cup when they agonisingly lost a close semi-final to eventual champions Australia in Sydney in 2020.
They will, of course, have to do it without their former captain Dane van Niekerk after Cricket South Africa opted not to select the star all-rounder, after she failed the regulation fitness tests in the build-up to the T20 World Cup.
The drama surrounding Van Niekerk’s omission has certainly left a dark cloud hovering over the Proteas, especially with Marizanne Kapp having taken leave during the recent Tri-Series to console her spouse.
Kapp, though, returned to the Proteas squad to play in the warm-up game against England on Monday, and the entire team can now finally begin to focus on what lies ahead.
A home World Cup has its own unique challenges, particularly with the amount of pressure on the players and coaching staff, in terms of dealing with the expectation of SA supporters.
Luus is fully aware of what is expected of her team, but at the same time wants her players to embrace the “once in a lifetime” experience.
“The World Cup is massive and I don’t think we always understand the magnitude of it. But as the days have gone by, doing all the interviews, and the messages of support coming in, we realise the next couple of weeks are going to be very tough, stressful and hard,” Luus said.
“But it is also going to be the most fun we are going to have in our lives. I don’t think this comes along very often in a players’ career.”
Part of the Proteas’ sendoff was being addressed by much-decorated Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Ellis shared her team’s experience at the World Cup and African Cup of Nations, and how they prepared mentally for the prospect of facing up to some of the most powerful teams in the world.
It left a lasting impression, particularly on the Proteas’ opening batter Laura Wolvaardt, who will have a leading role to play if the hosts are to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
“It was a very inspirational speech from Des. I think a lot of the girls got goosebumps when Des was talking. It was really good to hear how her team went about their competitions and taking it game by game,” Wolvaardt said.
“I think we will try to implement that in our World Cup coming up. It really puts everything into perspective and I’m really excited for Friday.
“We have been very busy the last few days, but slowly we are going to start shifting our focus. We’ll take it game by game because we can’t think too far ahead, because there are still a long few weeks ahead.”