Tough love in the kitchen and on the field for Van Niekerk and Kapp
JOHANNESBURG – Dane van Niekerk left no one in any doubt that she could be tough on wife and national teammate Marizanne Kapp, by giving her flack for her cooking skills or lack thereof.
Van Niekerk and Kapp spoke candidly on Thursday about the frustration of being professional athletes in lockdown. Training is restricted to homemade gyms or as Kapp pointed out, tasks around the house. “We’ve been painting and cutting our own grass - which is almost harder than training for cricket,” laughed Kapp.
What she hasn’t been doing is cooking. “I’d like to say Marizanne’s started cooking but that hasn’t happened,” said Van Niekerk. If her wife did start cooking, Van Niekerk, later admitted, she may have to check the status of the couple’s life insurance. And if Van Niekerk will publicly admonish her wife’s lack of cooking skills, you know it’s not a stretch when she says she’s tougher on Kapp than any of their teammates when South Africa are in the field.
“She says I’m tougher on her than anyone else in the team,” said van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk and Kapp, who’ve been playing together for the Proteas for 11 years, were married in 2018. It’s a rare dynamic for a sports team, which could have become complicated when Van Niekerk was made the national team’s captain in 2016.
“We are aware that when we are around the team training and playing it is strictly a professional relationship,”said Van Niekerk. “We have our fights on the field, just like with anyone else. I do think I'm a bit tougher on her, because I want to show the team, there’s no favouritism. We’ve been in the team for 11 years together, the team understands it and it's not a massive issue.”
It does examine Van Niekerk’s objectivity, as occurred on the evening of the T20 World Cup semifinal in Sydney earlier this year. Kapp had battled a heart problem during the tournament - something she said she exacerbated during an earlier Group game in very hot conditions - and which left her very weak.
A supreme competitor and along with Van Niekerk, South Africa’s most influential player, Kapp was desperate to play in that semi against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"I was very conflicted. It was a very difficult decision," “said van Niekerk. "I was sitting with [coach] Hilton Moreeng, and we had a lot of time (to decide) because of the weather. He is a family guy and I said to him it was difficult for me to know (what to do). But the way she looked, it would have been wrong for us to push her to play a game.”
Kapp didn’t play, and in a dramatic rain interrupted match, South Africa would come up just short against the eventual champions.
Kapp acknowledges she’s something of a cricket tragic and has needed her wife’s help over the years to broaden her perspective.
“I absolutely love watching cricket and talking cricket and often Dane will tell me ‘ok, no, no more cricket,’ she’s taught me in the last 10 years that cricket isn’t everything, because for me it has been. She lives her life and cricket is kind of the second thing she does.”
In the case of Kapp and Van Niekerk it is helpful having a spouse who shares the same day job. “Sometimes it's tough but when you see your teammates and how they miss their husbands and partners, we are always lucky enough to have the person there especially when it isn’t going well,” Kapp remarked.
In between the DIY at home, the pair are maintaining a strict training regime with an eye on the 2021 50-over World Cup in New Zealand. The chief executives of the various national boards decided at an ICC executive meeting on Thursday to keep the World Cup in its current spot in the calendar although what kind of build up there will be must still be determined.
“We are still preparing as if we are going to play a World Cup in January and February (next year),” said Kapp.@shockerhess