Cape Town — The Proteas Women's team can no longer slip under the radar heading into the Women's Cricket World Cup in New Zealand, according to captain Sune Luus.
Five years ago an unheraled Proteas side turned heads with their march all the way to an agonizing semi-final defeat to hosts and eventual champions England in Bristol.
That was a breakthrough moment for Hilton Moreeng's side as they have since grown and developed exponentially into a world class outfit that is now listed as No 2 on the ICC rankings just behind women's cricket powerhouse Australia.
Furthermore, the majority of the team that were beaten in that epic semi-final are back to avenge that defeat in the hope of going one step further to become the first South African senior team to reach an ICC World Cup final.
The major absentee is though regular skipper and all-star all-rounder Dane van Niekerk, although the Proteas remain confident of their chances in New Zealand.
"In the past, we have always been seen as the underdogs, but I think we have shown in the last few years that we are a team to be reckoned with," Luus told the ICC.
"We have shown consistent performances in difficult countries like India and the West Indies.
"We also had a great T20 World Cup two years ago in Australia and turned some heads.
"I hope that we do the same this year and hopefully reach that final that we've been missing out on, on three different occasions."
Although Van Niekerk's absence due to suffering a freak accident at her home is a major loss, the Proteas are well accustomed to playing under Luus' leadership over the past 12 months already. Luus was already the captain when the Proteas won home series' against Pakistan and the West Indies and a historic series in India.
"We have a strong squad with a combination of experienced players and a couple of players who will be making their World Cup debut. This is very exciting for us as a team," said Luus.
"We are coming off an extremely good year, and I know that the teams' confidence is high."
The Proteas can also take confidence from their last visit to the land of the long white cloud when they defeated the White Ferns 3-0 in their own backyard.
"In 2020, we played a series against New Zealand on some of the same grounds we will be playing in this tournament and were very successful. I am hoping that the preparation we had on that tour and the knowledge we gained will play a huge role in this tournament. We couldn’t have asked for better preparation.
"The most important part for us is to not focus too much on our opposition. Every match will be played like a final, therefore it is imperative that we only focus on what we do best and what we can control.
"In our previous series, this is what worked best for us. We tried to do the basics as best as we could, and the result took care of itself. It is so easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement of a World Cup, but it is going to be important for us to stay in our little bubble and be focused on our goal," Luus added.
The tournament, which runs from 4 March to 3 April, features eight of the world's best sides who will vie for the most coveted piece of silverware in the women's game.