Dane van Niekerk: Seven things to know about the Proteas captain

The ICC Women’s World T20 kicks off on Friday at the Caribbean and, central to South Africa’s quest for a first major trophy will be none other than their skipper, Dane van Niekerk.

A game-winner with both bat and ball, the all-rounder is among the best in the world, and has quickly rose to becoming one of her country’s best players of all time.

Aged just 25, she has established herself as a world class player, as she is currently ranked third among all-rounders in ODI’s and is in sixth-place in the shortest format.

From when South Africa kick off their campaign next Monday against Sri Lanka, she is bound to be a name on everyone’s mouth, and we’ve brought you a list of a few essential facts about the Proteas captain.

She is married to a teammate

Dane van Niekerk and fellow all-rounder Marizanne Kapp have shared more than just a few partnerships in the middle.

The two cricketers are madly in love and tied the knot in July this year, which made them the second couple among international cricketers to get married after the New Zealand pair of Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu.

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A record stand!

Her dad convinced her to try spin

Being an aspiring cricketer growing up in South Africa, you’re likely to want to bowl as fast as you possibly can and, such was the case for a young Dane van Niekerk, until her father convinced her to try spin.

She told Daily Vox;

“My dad always told us there aren’t a lot of spinners in the country. So why don’t you try and spin? You know I held the ball a certain way, and the ball came out in a leg spinner. I guess I fell into the skill if I can say it like that.”

One of the first girls to join a boys’ academy in SA

She shares that distinction with none other than her wife Marizanne Kapp after both were included in Eastern Province Cricket Academy, playing alongside male cricketers.

She’s talented in other sports too

If cricket hadn’t worked out, Dane van Niekerk could have tried her hand in other sports too.

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The 25-year-old counts hockey and softball among other sports she plays in her spare time.

She was one of the more high-profile names who were lobbying to have South Africa’s hockey teams included in the team that travelled to Rio for the 2016 Olympic games.

Made her international debut at 15

For most people, representing your country in a World Cup in any sport is still a fairly distant dream at the age of 15. But not for Dane van Niekerk, who was called up to the national team and made her international debut just days before her 16th birthday, in a group match against the West Indies in Newcastle.

The result on the day was a disappointing one for South Africa, who ran their more-fancied opponents close, eventually losing by just two wickets, with van Niekerk returning figures of 1-24 in her seven overs.

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Was instrumental in South Africa’s first T20 win

South Africa stunned England in Cape Town back in 2016 and, opening the batting as the Proteas were in pursuit of the visitors’ intimidating total of 156, van Niekerk smashed 63 off just 43 balls to help his side reach a revised target of 143.

A pioneer for both men and women’s cricket

If she was not a household name before the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup in England, then anyone with more than a fleeting interest in cricket certainly knew who Dane van Niekerk was when she posted the extraordinary figures of four wickets with no run conceded against the West Indies in Leicester.

This made her the first cricketer across the board to take four wickets without conceding a single run, beating a record shared by the likes of Australian great, Richie Benaud.