CAPE TOWN – South African women sport stars are really starting to make an impact globally. Caster Semenya’s exploits on the athletics track is well-documented, while the likes of Banyana Banyana footballers Janine van Wyk, Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo are fast becoming household names in the United States where they play for Houston Dash.
And now Refilo Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi are following in their trailblazing footsteps at Canberra FC in Australia.
But it is not just consigned to athletics and football either, with the country’s premier women cricketers also putting in performances on the world stage that has them firmly in the spotlight.
Proteas opener Lizelle Lee certainly raised the profile this week when she bludgeoned 104 off just 58 balls to power her English team, Surrey Stars, to the Women’s Super League title at the Central County Ground. Alongside Lee was her Proteas captain and teammates Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp. They too contributed significantly to Surrey’s victory over Loughborough Lightning with Van Niekerk claiming 3/37 and Kapp 2/14.
All three play in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash too, while the experience of sharing a dressingroom with England’s World Cup winners Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver at Surrey is invaluable.
“The experience we gain playing in these tournaments is unbelievable. The level of cricket is really high and we always learning,” Lee told Independent Media upon her return to South Africa. “It is massive that three South Africans were involved in winning a major final. We have lots of cricket coming up, particularly the World T20 in the Caribbean, and the more exposure we have to playing pressure matches can only be beneficial.”
The national football association has recently set in motion the plans for a professional women’s league to be launched next April here in South Africa, and Lee believes a similar initiative in cricket would raise the standard of the local game even more.
“I think it may still be a couple of more years before we’re ready for that, but it would definitely be a huge boost to women’s cricket. We certainly have quality players around the country, so much talent. We can see that through the young players that are coming into the national team,” Lee said.
There was an abundance of youthful talent on display in the annual North v South competition played in Pretoria recently, where 26 of the country's most promising cricketers played three T20s on consecutive days.
It was a virtual “trial” for the upcoming tour to the Windies, with three uncapped players, Tumi Sekhukhune, Saarah Smith and Robyn Searle all included in the touring squad for the three ODI’s and five T20’s against the defending World T20 champions. This all forms part of the Proteas’ preparation for the upcoming World T20 to be held in the Caribbean in November.
“I think the selectors are giving the youngsters a chance because they have so much potential, and to go on such a big tour will massive for their development,” Lee said. “It is a very important tour. We have the three ODI’s that form part of the ICC Championship upfront, and then with the World T20 around the corner, it gives us time to get our combinations and gameplans in order.
I actually think we’re one step ahead of the other teams as we get to prepare in the Caribbean. It gives us time to acclimatise to the conditions,” she added.
The Proteas women squad for Windies tour is:
Dane van Niekerk (capt), Chloe Tryon, Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee (wk), Sune Luus, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Masabata Klaas, Zintle Mali, Trisha Chetty, Robyn Searle, Tumi Sekhukhune, Saarah Smith.