Cape Town - Despite the Proteas not having played Australia in a One-Day International since the last World Cup five years ago, Laura Wolvaardt believes they will still be facing a familiar foe in the top of the table Women's World Cup clash at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Tuesday.
Wolvaardt's claim is based on the fact that at least half of the Proteas team are regulars in Australia's domestic Women's Big Bash League where they ply their trade for the respective state franchises.
After starring against the Aussies in Taunton back in 2017 when the stylish opening batter struck 71 in a losing cause, Wolvaardt secured a deal with the Brisbane Heat the following season. She has since moved on to the Adelaide Strikers where she's a teammate of injured Proteas captain Dane van Niekerk.
The duo are a host of Proteas at the WBBL that also include Marizanne Kapp (Perth Scorchers) and Shabnim Ismail (Sydney Sixers), while Mignon du Preez and Chloe Tryon are both at the Hobart Hurricanes. Stand-in captain Sune Luus was previously at the Brisbane Heat.
Ismail was the first foreigner to win the Player of the Final award in the 2020-21 WBBL season when she delivered a match-winning spell of 2/12, including the big scalp of Australian captain Meg Lanning, before Kapp claimed the prize last season for the Scorchers.
Much of Australia's success gained over the years - the Proteas have never beaten the Aussies in an ODI - is due to the opposition almost being in awe of their superstar line-up that includes the likes of Lanning, Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry, but Wolvaardt believes sharing a dressing room with them over the years has been hugely beneficial.
"I think it helps a lot (having played WBBL)," Wolvaardt said ahead of the crunch clash. "Australia is actually one of the sides we should be most prepared for because a lot of our girls have spent a lot of time playing in the same team and against a lot of their players.
"But i guess it goes both ways. We might know their games a bit better and they might know ours as well having spent some time over there. It is an advantage and also a disadvantage."
While the Proteas are acutely aware of the fact that they will need to be at their absolute collective best to create history in the New Zealand capital on Tuesday with Australia posing threats in all departments, there will be an intriguing head-to-head battle between Wolvaardt and Aussie new-ball bowler Darcie Brown that could define the outcome of this clash.
Both Wolvaardt and Brown have been impressive at the World Cup thus far with the the Proteas opener having struck four consecutive half-centuries, while the teenage seamer ripped through India and New Zealand in her last two games.
To add further spice to an already intriguing match-up is the fact the duo are teammates at the Strikers.
"Firstly, Australia are a world class side. They are No 1 in the world. It is not a game we are going to take lightly. I guess we just have to see it as a normal game. Watch the ball, we can't go out there playing the player. It's still about playing the ball. I don't think we have ever beaten them in an ODI, so it's a great opportunity to do that," Wolvaardt said.
"Obviously she (Brown) has been taking some wickets up front with the new ball and moving it nicely. For me it will be about getting through those first few overs. They have some world class bowlers and I have to respect the good balls and hopefully we can set up a good score for the team."
South Africa will need to make at least one change to their starting line-up with Masabata Klaas being ruled out with a shoulder injury. Klaas left the field midway through the White Ferns' innings in the last game and has not recovered as yet.
Easterns seamer Tumi Sekhukhune could be drafted into the line-up as a like-for-like replacement, although there is also the option of including specialist spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba.
Australia have indicated that despite already being the only team to have secured semi-final qualification already, they will not be resting any of their first-choice XI.
Likely Proteas XI to face Australia:
Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, Tazmin Brits, Sune Luus (capt), Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Trisha Chetty (wk), Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Tumi Sekhukhune/Nonkululeko Mlaba.
Start: 12am TV: SuperSport