Dané van Niekerk (25 years old, born 14 May 1993)
All-rounder (batter and leg-spinner) – Dané has captained the Proteas since 2016
Hailing from Centurion, now living in Port Elizabeth, as a child Dané’s dad moved his daughter to Laerskool Hennopspark, a school that would allow her to play in the boys’ cricket team. Some boys saw her as a threat and she often came under fire. “If a girl gets you out, they would chirp each other,” she says, although she attributes contending with this for making her the resilient player she is today.
She played for Highveld Women and Northerns Women before becoming one of the first two South African females (along with Marizanne Kapp) to be included in the Eastern Province cricket team academy – a men's team. Playing in a male team was nothing trivial and came with its challenges.
She went on to captain the South African women's Under 19 Team when she herself was only 16. She made her debut in March 2009, during the World Cup match against the West Indies at Newcastle also at the age of 16.
On 21 June 2016, she was appointed as South Africa women's captain for all forms (Test, ODI and T20I) following Mignon du Preez's decision to step down.
"For me, if you’re good enough to play, then you must be allowed to.”
If not cricket, what profession would you have gone into?
I think I might have studied Business Management. When my time in cricket is done, I'd like to invest in a business. It really appeals to me.
Do you enjoy travelling and which destinations do you like the most?
I love seeing the world, and Mauritius, the Caribbean, and Coogee Beach next to Bondi in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, are my favourite places to visit.
Would you move there if it was an option?
Absolutely not. I love SA and my family is here, so emigrating isn’t on the cards!
Do you ever tire of the travelling you do as a Proteas team member?
I don't enjoy being away from home a lot but it doesn’t bother me as I know there's a lifespan to this chapter of my life. In the last year, Marizanne and I have only been home in PE for two to three months. I'm so grateful to our relatives who look after our home and pets during this window of opportunity. [Fellow Proteas team member, Marizanne Kapp is Dané's partner.]
How much longer do you anticipate playing cricket professionally?
All things going well and especially if I remain physically fit and strong, I hope to stay at this level for another seven years.
Who are your favourite cricketers?
Growing up it was Shane Warne, and now it’s AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, and ex-India women's national cricket team captain, Mithali Raj, who averaged around 50 runs and made 183 ODI appearances for her country. She’s currently the all-time leading run-scorer for India in all formats, including Tests, ODIs and T20Is.
What has been your biggest highlight and worst disappointment while being a professional cricketer?
Without a doubt, the semi-final loss to England last World Cup in 2017 was the one that hurt the most. However, that tour as the captain is also my biggest highlight!
What do you do when you're not playing cricket?
I try to switch off from cricket and spend time with my family and friends. I love playing golf and I consider myself a foodie. When I’m at home I want a bit of ‘cooked food’. Steak, chips and salad, Sunday roast – I miss that when I’m on tour.
It must be an occupational hazard being in the sun all the time! We assume sunscreen plays a big part?
I have sunscreen for days, especially with my freckles. I realised it a bit too late though...
Does the media treat you differently to how they treat the Protea Men's Cricket Team?
In the past, to try to change the image of women’s cricket, some promoters have tried to get us to portray a much more feminine image, which frustrated me and made me feel out of my comfort zone. When we go out, we dress nicely but we are who we are. We’re not butch, we just love to catch and hit a ball!
It is my hope that in the future both women and men get behind our sport and stop comparing it to men’s cricket and simply appreciate it as a game in its own right. This will grow the popularity of women’s cricket.