Dane van Niekerk says South Africa’s ‘babies’ are ready to come of age in their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final against Australia.
The Proteas reached the final four for the second time thanks to an unbeaten Group B campaign, while Thursday’s opponents have won the competition on four occasions.
South Africa have eight survivors from their nine-wicket humbling at the hands of England in 2014 and Van Niekerk points to a remarkable turnaround.
“Australia have been in so many semi-finals and finals. We are babies compared to them when it comes to experience,” said the captain.
“I think about 2014 and we were shell-shocked that we got into the semi-finals.
“You go there wanting to do well in a tournament, but it’s different to say you’re going to come and win a World Cup.
“I don’t think we quite understood then what it meant mentally, physically. We’ve been on tour 54 days already, it’s not as if we’ve just come over here and are on a 20-day tour.
“We’ve played the most international cricket out of everyone, it just shows the preparation and learning how to go about it. That’s helped us a lot in this World Cup.
“We don’t want the heartache of 2017 again. It was very tough for a lot of the players and management, we’re definitely going to do everything we can tomorrow to make sure we don’t have that feeling again.”
Van Niekerk was at the helm for South Africa’s other major disappointment, a two-wicket defeat to England at the 2017 Cricket World Cup.
The Proteas’ group-stage victory over England this year was a statement about their evolution as a side and they backed it up with wins over Thailand and Pakistan.
Key contributions have come from a variety of sources, with Lizelle Lee clubbing a century against Thailand and Laura Woolvardt a vital 50 against Pakistan.
The raw pace of Shabnim Ismail has given their bowling attack x-factor, while the tactic of opening with Nonkululeko Mlaba’s spin has largely paid off.
Also constant in their group stage campaign has been concerns over the fitness of Marizanne Kapp, laid low with a virus in recent days.
Kapp will be assessed on the morning of the game with her participation still in doubt, and Van Niekerk reiterated the all-rounder’s importance to her side.
“Everybody around the room knows how important Marizanne is for our side,” she said.
“She’s not only one of the pace bowlers in the world, she’s one of the best all-rounders.
“It is a semi-final, but a player’s health is more important than the game.
“We’re lucky enough to have 15 very talented cricketers, so whatever decision is made I’m confident players will stick up their hand and make sure she’s not missed too much.
“Sune (Luus) has put up her hand in Marizanne’s role with the batting. I’m not too worried but hopefully she gets up in good spirits so we can include her in the team.”