JOHANNESBURG – South Africa is sending arguably its most experienced team to the ICC Women’s World T20 in Australia next month, hoping to erase the bitter disappointments of past tournaments.
That element of experience is absolutely critical for Dane van Niekerk’s team. For the main core of the team, this year’s tournament Down Under, will be their seventh ICC event. For the likes of Van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Mignon du Preez and Shabnim Ismail, it has been a decade long journey together, which has led them to believe that this year they are capable of getting to the final and even winning the whole thing.
“The work the team has put in is second to none,” Van Niekerk said at the squad announcement yesterday. “They have made incredible strides and if you see how things have changed in the camp, since my injuries (last year), I see a massive difference, physically, mentally and emotionally. The experience gives us confidence.”
It’s not only international experience or all that time spent playing together but also the fact that six members of this year’s squad - including Van Niekerk - are fresh off reasonably successful stints in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) T20 tournament in Australia, so they are also familiar with the conditions.
“I think the wickets will be flatter now,” said Van Niekerk, who along with Kapp was part of the Sydney Sixers team that won back-to-back WBBL titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
“The Big Bash is usually around this time, but we had it earlier this season and the wickets were a bit more lively. But hopefully it won’t be too flat, we like there to be a challenge between bat and ball, especially with our bowling.”
Head coach Hilton Moreeng, who is heading to his sixth ICC tournament in that position, also feels now is the time for the South African team to step out of the shadows cast by the likes of Australia and England in the women’s game.
“They play against all the top players in the world in the BBL, the experience of sharing dressing rooms with them, the cricket knowledge about what those countries are doing, we look to see what we can do, what we can tweak to keep up with the rest of the world. We have a lot of match winners, amongst the players who went to the BBL,” said Moreeng.
The squad left for New Zealand yesterday, where they will play three ODIs followed by five T20 internationals, which will serve as ideal preparation ahead of the World T20 tournament.
Neither Van Niekerk nor Moreeng will be looking for excuses should SA fail to go far at the tournament. They will avoid tournament favourites Australia in the group stage of the competition that starts on 21 February.
The Proteas open their account against England at the Waca two days later with their group also containing the West Indies, Pakistan and Thailand.