Cape Town - November 10, 2020. The western Sydney sun is blazing down at the Blacktown International Sports Park.
To the untrained eye it seemed perfectly normal when Marizanne Kapp, who had been batting well for her 33 off 31 balls, took a moment to catch her breath alongside Scorchers wicket-keeper Beth Mooney.
For Dane van Niekerk – Kapp’s Proteas captain and wife – this was though a re-run of a horror movie she had seen before. But how was she supposed to manage her emotions while sitting in the Sydney Sixers dugout with her pads on getting ready to bat next.
And then her worst fears were confirmed. Just like a few months ago when at the helm of the Proteas in a T20 World Cup clash against Pakistan, she just had to stand by and watch the medical staff attend to Kapp and escort her off the field.
The chronic heart condition, which Kapp wears a monitor for while playing to keep track of her heart rate, is part of the couple’s daily lives.
“I can see it instinctively … it’s almost like I know. When she’s (Kapp) batting I can immediately see there is something wrong. She just becomes pale,” van Niekerk told IOL Sport.
“It happened at the Big Bash a couple of times. It happened at the Super League a couple of times … it is never great and it’s so hard not to get emotional because I have to be strong for my teammates. It is a very fine line between when I can be worried and still be the strong captain/leader on the field. It’s not great. I don’t enjoy it.”
In an ironic twist of fate, Kapp is seemingly in good health and is fresh off the game of her life while Van Niekerk is at home recovering from an ankle injury that ruled her out of the on-going World Cup in New Zealand.
Such unique circumstances could put strain on even the strongest of relationships, especially with this World Cup having been pencilled in as Van Niekerk’s date with destiny.
It is her resolve and single-mindedness over the last five years that has been the driving force behind the Proteas’ transformation into genuine contenders in New Zealand.
But instead of moping around at home bemoaning her bad luck, Van Niekerk has blissfully taken on the role of Kapp and the team’s No 1 fan. Conversely, Kapp responded through an emotional tribute to Van Niekerk after the England victory that pulled at the heart strings.
“I heard that and I immediately texted her and said she didn’t have to do that. They are achieving their own things over there,” Van Niekerk said.
“But there’s no doubt I was emotional. I was in the SuperSport Studios and they played it on the big screen while we were on air and I had to grab a bottle so I wouldn't cry in front of everyone. If that game didn’t make you cry, then I don’t know.”
At no stage should all this emotional talk be confused with Van Niekerk’s burning desire to see the Proteas be crowned world champions. It is a flame that burns strongly within her even though she’s not able to bowl a ball in anger.
She is hoping that the legacy that she’s left behind in the changeroom of fighting for every inch remains under the coolness of Sune’ Luus’ leadership, especially when forced to front up in the ultimate contest against the mighty Australia.
“I woke up this morning and I told Marizanne I said … ‘Wow, they are beating teams convincingly’. And a lot of teams believe Australia are going to beat them. They are a good side and are stamping their authority on the tournament.
“But I just think you need to be brave. You need to take the attack to them. I want the Proteas to take the game to them. I firmly believe the Proteas team in New Zealand can beat Australia.”