Proteas women are one match away from history
LONG before women in this country could even dream of pursuing a professional cricket career, Daleen Terblanche led South Africa to a World Cup semi-final.
In 2000 Terblanche’s Proteas enjoyed a dream run that included a victory over powerhouse England in the group stages to set up a date with Australia in Lincoln on New Zealand’s South Island.
Although the Aussies proved too strong for the Proteas, it remained South Africa’s only appearance in an ICC Women’s World Cup semi-final until Dane van Niekerk led her to team to the promised land in the on-going 11th edition in England.
“It was a big thing back then. A big event,” Terblanche, who doubled up as a teacher when she wasn’t on the cricket field, told Independent Media.
“We were a group of part-timers, not like the girls of today, and it was only the second time South Africa were playing in a World Cup. We had done really well to beat England to get to the semi-finals but then we came up against the Aussies. They were on a different level. They were playing the game longer than us at the highest level and had more time to train, especially on issues like fitness and fielding. Lisa Keightley played very well on the day.”
There has been a major shift in the approach to the women’s game since those days with Van Niekerk, and her team able to focus squarely on defeating the tournament hosts today in the first semi-final due to the majority of her team not only employed by Cricket South Africa, but also contracted to various Big Bash Women’s teams in Australia and the Women’s Cricket League in England.
That doesn’t make South Africa’s task any easier though, with England remaining one of the torchbearers of women’s cricket. Heather Knight’s side punished the Proteas’ much-vaunted bowling unit in the round-robin fixture with Sarah Taylor and Tammy Beaumont both smashing centuries. “Yeah, it would have been great to just play cricket. I played with really talented girls like Sunette Viljoen (South Africa’s Olympic javelin silver medallist) and Johmari Logtenberg but they were forced to stop playing. It’s wonderful for Dane, Mignon and the rest of the girls now. “I played a little bit with Mignon towards the end of my career but Dane was still in school. They’ve got a great opportunity to do something really special. The English are a real tough nut to crack. We saw in the group game how powerful their batting is, but I think we do have the bowlers to curb them. We just need to field properly. You can’t afford to drop catches and let the ball through in big games like this.”
Will Terblanche though be spurring the Proteas on from all the way back home in South Africa?
“School has unfortunately started again, so I’ll be in front of a class, but I’ll try to catch some of the game later in the day,” she lamented.
It seems then that Van Niekerk and her team don’t only carry their own hopes when they step out on the field in Bristol today. They have a responsibility to all the women who selflessly worked the trenches for them to reap the rewards the women’s game now has to offer.