Former Proteas Women captain Mignon du Preez is under no illusions about the task that awaits Suné Luus’ side against England in their ICC T20 World Cup semi-final.
Cape Town – “Embrace the occasion. Go out there and be fearless. And remember we are all supporting you.”
That’s the straightforward message Mignon du Preez, the Proteas’ Women’s team most-capped international, would share with her former teammates if she was still in the dressing room ahead of the much-anticipated ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final against England at Newlands on Friday.
Du Preez has seen it all before. She was the captain of the first Proteas team to reach an ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final almost a decade ago in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
And she was part of the group three years ago that were left sprawled across the Sydney Cricket Ground turf in tears after the agonising five-run Duckworth Lewis defeat to current champions Australia.
But these days she looks on from above in the commentary box after her retirement from international cricket at the end of last year. It has provided Du Preez with a different lens to analyse the team’s performance, which is why she is under no illusions about the task that awaits Suné Luus’ side.
“South Africa are the underdogs. There’s no doubt about that. England are a dangerous side with match-winners in every department and they showed how dangerous they could be by smashing the record score at a T20 World Cup in their last game.
“Hopefully they are on top of Table Mountain and on their way down in the cable car,” Du Preez said at an Emirates event where two young girls from Khayelitsha were awarded coaching sponsorships.
“I think South Africa haven’t played their best cricket yet in this tournament. It has been scratchy from the outset with the opening loss to Sri Lanka, but it seems like the batting unit in particular may finally be finding some form after the 10-wicket win over Bangladesh.”
The league phase is over though and it’s now a straight shootout for a first-ever place in a T20 World Cup final. All the clichés of previous form holding no water at this stage cannot be any more accurate.
It’s all about who absorbs the pressure best.
The Proteas’ record, of course, is sketchy at best in this regard, which Du Preez admits she was once a part of. But it’s for this reason that she wants the players, particularly the senior core, to walk out on the Newlands turf on Friday and face England right between the eyes.
“The pressure to succeed is almost bigger than the fear of failure,” Du Preez said.
“We’ve all been there. But that’s why this can be different. The majority of this team have played in World Cup semi-finals before. In England in 2017, in Australia in 2020, and last year in New Zealand.
“Everybody has experienced butterflies. It’s not a new feeling. There’s also someone like Marizanne Kapp in that team. She loves the big occasion. She loves finals. She’s been Player of the Match in the final of the Hundred, the Big Bash, Fairbreak Invitational … all these big tournaments.
“Even Sune Luus. She’s no longer ‘klein Sunetjie’ that grew up in front of me. She played her 100th T20I against Bangladesh. Shabnim (Ismail), Ayabonga (Khaka), Laura (Wolvaardt) and even young Nonululeka (Mlaba) have all been in this situation before. It’s time to break free and show off the talent they all have in front of the whole country and the world.”