Cricket South Africa have moved quickly to provide the reasons behind the absence of star all-rounder Dane van Niekerk from the Proteas' squad for the upcoming ICC Women's T20 World Cup.
While van Niekerk has been out of action since breaking her ankle at home in Gqeberha in January 2022 and has not played international cricket since September 2021, the 29-year-old performed well during England's domestic Hundred competition last year and was expected to be selected in South Africa's squad for the T20 World Cup on home soil.
But van Niekerk failed to pass South Africa's fitness requirements and as a result, was left out of the Proteas' 15-player squad that was announced on Tuesday.
Sune Luus, who has taken over the reins of the Proteas Women's team in van Niekerk's absence, was named the captain for the T20 World Cup.
After the squad was announced, unsurprisingly the first question asked to Clinton du Preez, women's selection convener at the press conference was regarding the absence of van Niekerk.
In response, he said: "Dané was given an extensive opportunity to meet the minimum criteria, or the fitness benchmark for eligibility into the World Cup."
"She recently did another fitness test and unfortunately did not meet the minimum criteria, and therefore she's missed out. It's purely based on the not meeting of the fitness criteria that she's missed out."
Giving further insight, du Preez spoke about the fitness test – a two-kilometre run – that van Niekerk failed to pass last week.
He also revealed that van Niekerk took the test ahead of the ongoing tri-series that also involves India and West Indies, after which it was decided she would get another chance before the T20 World Cup squad would be selected.
Van Niekerk was even part of the pre-series camp ahead of the tri-series and it was believed at the time that she would make full fitness in time for the T20 World Cup.
During the press conference, du Preez admitted that van Niekerk will be missed as a player but they had to go by the fitness requirements put in place by Cricket South Africa.
"Dané has been an integral part of the team. Her skill-set will always be missed on the field," du Preez added. "We've had this discussion with her. We've extensively reminded her of that, and appreciated the hard work that she's put in to try to get to the fitness levels.
"It's about remaining consistent with our decisions. Many other players have gone down this route. Everyone is quite familiar with the situation and what is required."
The former skipper took to social media to show her frustration at missing out on a home T20 World Cup.
South Africa's first game at the T20 World Cup comes up against Sri Lanka in Cape Town on February 10, while the Proteas also have group matches against New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh.
South Africa squad: Annerie Dercksen, Marizanne Kapp, Lara Goodall, Ayabonga Khaka, Chloe Tryon, Nadine de Klerk, Shabnim Ismail, Tazmin Brits, Masabata Klaas, Laura Wolvaardt, Sinalo Jafta, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Sune Luus (c), Anneke Bosch, Delmi Tucker.
Non-traveling reserves: Micaéla Andrews, Tebogo Macheke, Tumi Sekhukhune.