Amazing opportunity: South African cricketers Mignon du Preez (Melbourne Stars) and Dane van Niekerk (Melbourne Renegades) will play against each other at the MCG on Saturday. Photo: Jason SouthThe creation of the Women’s Big Bash League has funded the recruitment of more overseas players than has been feasible before. For Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk, the opportunity to play in Saturday’s first Melbourne derby is remarkable given South Africa’s scant experience against Australia and Australian players.
Batter du Preez has played for South Africa since 2007 and been captain for almost five years, yet in that time she – and her team – have played two matches against the Southern Stars: once in the 2013 World Twenty20, the other in the 2014 World Cup.
“It used to be top four and bottom four, where the Aussies, New Zealand, England and India was the top four and us, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was the bottom four, and we tended to just play amongst each other. The top four just kept getting better,” du Preez, 26, explained.
The International Cricket Council’s creation of a Women’s Championship, which decrees all teams must face each other to determine the overall champion, is great news for South Africa because it will break down that divide, most notably next summer when the Southern Stars host them for a series in Australia.
“We finally get an opportunity to play them, not just in a huge event where sometimes your nerves can get the better of you. It’ll be good to have a competitive series, where I think we can given them a run,” du Preez said.
Given the lack of competition against Australia, du Preez said she, van Niekerk and teammate Marizanne Kapp were thrilled to have been approached to join Melbourne Stars, Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Sixers, respectively, for the inaugural WBBL season.
“It’s nice they’ve asked for the South African girls to be part of it,” she said. “We definitely knew the women’s game in Australia is quite big and that they’re very professional, but I was quite surprised with the significant amount of interest there has been.”
The positive news about TV viewers’ interest in WBBL matches, which was reflected in Channel 10 shifting Saturday afternoon’s match from One to their main channel, has continued with South Africa pay-TV broadcaster SuperSport electing to show the match live, owing to the interest in du Preez, van Niekerk and new Renegades signing Shabnim Ismail, a 27-year-old seamer.
“I’m just super blessed to be here. It’s an amazing experience. We’ve been enjoying it. It will just make us better,” van Niekerk said.
The New Year’s Eve WBBL match at Adelaide Oval, between Adelaide and Perth Scorchers, attracted a crowd of 10,500. Van Niekerk, 22, marvelled at the possibility of a comparable crowd for their match on Saturday, which begins at 1.40pm.
“I think just playing here is amazing, even if there was no-one watching,” the Renegades all-rounder said. “Hopefully they love some Saffers.”
The Stars’ du Preez said she too was chuffed to have an opportunity to play on the MCG.
“My husband actually said: ‘Do you know how many guys play cricket professionally for their whole career, back home in South Africa, but don’t get the opportunity to play [on comparable grounds]?’ Girls cricketers might not be as professional [with earnings], but we’ve got this opportunity to play,” she said.
“Usually when we play in front of big crowds they’re usually against us, so it’ll be good to have some fans around here.”
The Stars have won four of their seven matches, and victory would keep them on track for a semi-final berth. The Renegades have only won one match, but have played just five matches – fewer than half of some of their rivals.
Saturday’s match will be the first the Renegades have played in Melbourne.
STARS (from): Meg Lanning (c), Kelly Applebee, Lily Bardsley, Kristen Beams, Mignon du Preez, Emma Inglis, Hayley Jensen, Emma Kearney, Alana King, Anna Lanning, Katie Mack, Natalie Sciver, Gemma Triscari.
RENEGADES (from): Sarah Elliott (c), Bree Binch, Kris Britt, Cassie Brock, Shabnim Ismail, Kirsty Lamb, Erica Kershaw, Sophie Molineux, Molly Strano, Jenny Taffs, Dane van Niekerk, Georgia Wareham, Danni Wyatt.
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