Proteas Women's skipper Dane’ van Niekerk’s fitness issues are disappointing, says Graeme Smith
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CAPE TOWN - Cricket SA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith has admitted that Proteas' Women's captain Dane van Niekerk long-term fitness issues is "disappointing".
Van Niekerk suffered a lower back injury in September last year and has since missed back-to-back ODI and T20I series against Pakistan (February) and the highly-successful limited-overs tour to India in March.
All-rounder Sune Luus stepped in to cover for Van Niekerk and led the Proteas' to a 3-0 ODI whitewash and 2-1 T20I series victory over Pakistan, while also creating history by beating a powerful Indian side 4-1 in the ODI's and 2-1 in the T20s.
However, Van Niekerk's injuries are becoming a concern though after she was also ruled out in February 2019 for three months due to a stress fracture of the right femur. She also sat out six weeks in 2017 with a foot injury, returning just before the last 50-overs World Cup in England where the all-rounder led the team to the semi-final.
Independent Media understands that Van Niekerk was due to join her national teammates at a fitness camp this week at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, but the skipper was unable to attend due to illness.
"The ladies are currently in camp (at the HPC) where they have been doing fitness tests but Dane wasn't there as I believe shs has the flu," Smith told reporters this week.
"I think it is something that is a focus because if you look at the stats in terms of the last 30-odd games she hasn't been available as much as we would like.
"We are currently involved in contract discussions with both men and women, in terms of the ladies and their PDP's (Player Development Pathway), so these things will form part of these discussions. But ultimately you want your best players available more often than not and it has been a disappointing element that she has been injured a lot."
A fully-fit Van Niekerk remains an integral part of the Proteas Women's team moving forward. She is the undisputed leader of the team and her contributions remain vitally important with both bat and ball, highlighted by the fact she is still ranked No 8 on the ICC all-rounder's list. Proteas teammate and Van Niekerk's wife Marizanne Kapp is ranked No 1.
The 27-year-old, though, does still have time to recuperate fully with the Proteas' Women's team's next assignment provisionally scheduled for August only.
"It has been a really enjoyable period for them, but obviously the hardest thing for them is content. We're working really hard on it. There is something coming up in August in the build up to the World Cup, so hopefully we can keep them busy and give them the best preparation for that tournament," Smith said.