Proteas captain Dane van Niekerk hopes South Africa can come of age when they face hosts Australia in the semi-final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup on Thursday.
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 four times.
In 2014, South Africa were humbled by England, losing by nine wickets and while the skipper admits the side’s vastly inexperienced compared to Australia, the side has been on the rise.
There are eight survivors from that drubbing at the hands of England and Van Niekerk recalls how tough it was to deal with.
“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.”
This year, though, the Proteas have already beaten England int he tournament. They won a tense clash in their opening game, followed by victories over Thailand and Pakistan.
Contributions have been made all round with Lizelle Lee hammering a century against Thailand and Laura Woolvardt a critical 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.”
One spanner in the works is the possibility of rain interfering with the semi-finals. There are no reserve days scheduled for the semi-finals and in the infant of a washout, the Proteas will progress ahead of Australia, due to their unbeaten record in the group stages.
Watch: Dane van Niekerk ahead of the T20 World Cup semi-final vs Australia
Video footage courtesy of the ICC.