Today will be a special day for South Africans all over the world, not only because it is International Nelson Mandela Day, but because the Momentum Proteas will seek to make history when they face off against England in the first semi-final of the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup in Bristol. A win against the hosting nation will see the South Africans qualify for the final of the tournament for the first time ever.
Speaking to the media this afternoon, captain Dané van Niekerk was quietly confident of her team’s chances and expressed her pride in the side for reaching this stage.
“We set out a goal before leaving South Africa and we spoke a lot about our brand of cricket and playing that instead of the opposition,” she said. “It’s been four years in the making and we have tried to stay as true as possible to our game and our plan. We worked really hard on that leading up to the World Cup and the results have shown that. I’m really proud of the girls way that they have represented the badge.”
South Africa have been impressive during this tournament, winning four of their seven round-robin matches. They had a no result because of rain against New Zealand and lost just two matches; against defending champions Australia and England at the same ground that will host tomorrow’s clash.
Van Niekerk is not looking at the past however, she is looking forward to a fresh start that will hopefully see a different result for her team when it counts the most. She says that the belief is strong within the side and is excited to see how her team respond to what will be their toughest test yet.
“There’s a lot of belief,” she continued. “Our first hurdle was the semi-final and we got here. We have a tough battle tomorrow, but there’s a lot of excitement. It’s going to be a first experience of a semi-final for a lot of girls. It’s like going for an exam, if you’ve studied for it, you don’t have to stress about it.”
The skipper, who is the leading wicket taker in the tournament with 15 from six innings, believes that her bowling attack will rise to the occasion, having learned a valuable lesson from their last match in Bristol.
“The previous game here was not a fond memory for the bowlers, but I came into the World Cup believing that I have the best opening attack in the world and now I believe that I have the best bowling attack in the world. I’m just really excited to see what they do here tomorrow, we have our plans and thank goodness we’ve played here before so we can rectify what we did wrong the last time.
“We want to use this platform as an advertisement of the women’s game back home and leave behind a legacy for those who will follow us and make sure that they know that this is possible. It all starts tomorrow and I’m really excited to see what we do and help make South Africa even prouder on such a meaningful day like Mandela Day.”