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T20 World Cup

Van Niekerk hails 'incredible' togetherness of beaten Proteas

Protea fire

Dane van Niekerk says South Africa’s unity shone through even in the devastation of defeat to Australia in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 semi-finals.

It was another case of semi-final heartbreak for the Proteas, losing their fourth semi-final across 20- and 50-over World Cups and still never having reached the Final of a major ICC event.

A distraught van Niekerk, who watched her side fall five runs short of an adjusted target of 98 from 13 overs, rallied behind her team and felt they couldn’t have done any more to get over the line. 

“The team is quite distraught at the moment,” she said.

“We just didn't get over that hurdle of the semi-final. Everybody's hurting, and that hurts me.

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“We felt if we wanted to go to the Final we had to beat the best in the world. Everybody was up and about and ready to play the game. I cannot fault my teammates one bit in any facet of their game.

“I thought tonight was the night but it wasn't meant to be. I had a calm heart about tonight. When I came to the ground, no matter what happened, rain or shine, I was really calm.

“The culture of the team is incredible. This team's incredible. I wish you guys could be in the changing room with us all the time.”

South Africa broke a long-standing hoodoo in dismissing England in the group stages but remain winless against Australia in 20 attempts across all formats.

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Van Niekerk’s side have come on leaps and bounds in the shortest form and will be optimistic they can make a mark on next year’s 50-over World Cup having reached the final four in 2017.

One of the players sure to make a mark in New Zealand is Laura Woolvardt, reinvented into a middle-order batter in the shortest form and defiant with 41 from 27 balls in defeat at the SCG.

Van Niekerk paid tribute to Woolvardt, who continues to open the batting in ODI cricket, while revealing she was apologetic despite playing a virtual lone hand in the closing stages.

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“Laura is a smart kid, first of all. She loves the game of cricket,” said the skipper on a player who scored 94 runs without being dismissed in the competition.

“The fact that she gave up medicine to play cricket, that says a lot. She wants to bat all the time and gets upset when she doesn't bat.

“She gets upset when she sits on the side, and it showed in this World Cup. She wanted to be out there. She actually apologised for not getting the last runs. She couldn't have done anything more.

“She's been brilliant and she's been my pick of the tournament.”

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