The hype around the South African Women’s team following its magical and unexpected run to the World Cup semi-finals in July has put the players firmly in the spotlight and created a new avenue of pressure. Expectation.
While internally the team had high hopes for the World Cup, the reality was that the South African public wasn’t expecting very much.
Now, however, having made it to the semi-finals of that tournament and then getting as close to winning as they did in that match against England, perceptions of the team have changed.
And with the change in perception comes closer scrutiny the next time they take the field.
Skipper Dané van Niekerk said it was a new kind of pressure for the players to deal with, but that she was happy they had the ability to do so. After all, it is what they wanted.
“I don’t think there’s any bigger pressure than playing a semi-final of a World Cup,” said Van Niekerk on Tuesday.
“Having been in that situation, it also made the girls aware that we can cope with it. It was a case of it not being our day on that occasion.
“We are looking forward. We are excited, there’s a lot of hype around the women’s game - but that’s what we wanted.”
Most of the squad gathered at Cricket South Africa’s Centre of Excellence for a camp before the new season.
Van Niekerk is in the final stages of rehabilitation following a thigh muscle tear, but declared herself ready for her next assignment, a stint in Australia’s Women’s National Cricket League with the ACT Meteors.
“I’m good, just doing some rehab. It’s hard to get the body back where it was,” she quipped.
The remainder of the national side is in fine fettle too.
“I wasn’t expecting the girls to look as good as they are, because they really deserved a well deserved rest (after the World Cup).
“We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs as a team so we are in a good space, individually and professionally.
“I’m 100% confident the team can cope with this (hype). It’s all a learning experience, it’s not something we are used to, we will make mistakes but we carried ourselves really well through the World Cup.”
There’s little competitive cricket for the players for the remainder of the year with the national side’s next assignment against India in January.
A few of the players will be forwarding their names for the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia in December. Van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp were important members of the Sydney Sixers which won that tournament last season.
Mignon du Preez and Lizelle Lee have already been contracted to the Melbourne Stars.