Journal De Bruxelles - South Africa eye first World Cup triumph, despite loss of Van Niekerk

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South Africa eye first World Cup triumph, despite loss of Van Niekerk
South Africa eye first World Cup triumph, despite loss of Van Niekerk

South Africa eye first World Cup triumph, despite loss of Van Niekerk

If South Africa are to win the Women's World Cup for the first time they will have to do it without captain Dane van Niekerk, who will be missing when the tournament begins in New Zealand later this week.

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The star all-rounder suffered a freak injury in January, but the second-ranked Proteas will still go into their opening match against Bangladesh in Dunedin on Saturday as one of the teams to beat.

Van Niekerk, who has a batting average of 36.48 and has taken 130 wickets at 19.60 with her leg-spin bowling, slipped on a wet floor at home and broke her left ankle.

South Africa know they can cope without their leader -- they have won their last five one-day international series, with Van Niekerk missing for three of them because of injuries.

In her absence, fellow leg-spinning all-rounder Sune Luus led the side to wins against Pakistan, India and the West Indies.

Luus believes her side's high ranking, behind only tournament favourites Australia, does not put extra pressure on the players.

"That just give us the confidence to go into this tournament and play the kind of cricket we have been playing in the past year-and-a-half, two years," Luus said.

South Africa, who have never managed to get beyond the last four in the World Cup, reached the semi-finals in 2017 before going down to eventual winners England in a tense match as the hosts got home with two wickets and two balls to spare.

They topped their group in the T20 World Cup in Australia two years ago before falling short by five runs against Australia after a rain-adjusted chase in the semi-finals.

Despite their world number two status, South Africa have yet to win in 14 matches against top-ranked Australia. They have losing records against England, New Zealand and India.

They lost to England again in a warm-up match on Tuesday, by six wickets in a rain-affected match, with the teams scheduled to clash in the round-robin stage on March 14.

- Strong top order -

South Africa's opening batters and bowlers will be key to the team's success.

Lizelle Lee was named ICC Women's One-Day International cricketer of the year for her ability to score runs at a rapid rate at the top of the order, with the elegant Laura Wolvaardt providing the ideal foil to Lee's powerful striking.

A concern for South Africa is the rest of the batting if the top two fail, although Luus and Mignon du Preez both have plenty of experience.

The hard-hitting Chloe Tryon is an effective lower-order finisher.

Leading the attack will be Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp, who have been two of the most successful fast bowlers in the women's game.

The veterans, aged 33 and 32 respectively, took player-of-the-match awards in the finals of two of the biggest franchise competitions in women's cricket.

Ismail starred for Sydney Thunder in Australia's Big Bash League in 2020 and Kapp for the Oval Invincibles in England's inaugural The Hundred tournament last year.

Ayabonga Khaka provides steady seam bowling support, while Luus is the side's leading spin bowler.