Sunday Times E-Edition

Blooming Protea After a stellar start to season, Sune casts eye to new challenges

After a stellar start to the year, Sune casts eye forward to the Proteas’ new challenges


● Sune Luus began laying the foundation for another busy international season on Friday by lacing up her running shoes for a jog along the Sea Point promenade with some of her national teammates.

The quartet was made up of Luus, Laura Wolvaardt, Faye Tunnecliffe and Andrie Steyn. “Even now we still reflect and look back. We are still surprised with how well we did and the kind of support we had, the crowds …” Luus remarked.

Two of them — Luus and Wolvaardt — were central characters in the most remarkable tale hitherto scripted for women’s cricket in this country, the Proteas’ run to the final of the T20 World Cup.

But the international wheel keeps turning, and thoughts have already turned to what awaits South Africa in the new season. Perspectives from the outside will now be different given how well the World Cup went which will lead to higher expectations, never mind that it’s a newish Proteas team that will tackle those challenges.

“We don’t think about the expectation, we want to play to win and to do ourselves proud,” said Luus.

At this distance, that is easier said than done. Besides Wolvaardt, who simply can’t help herself and had to have an indoor “net” last week, others will slowly start turning to proper preparation in July. The South Africa team heads to Pakistan in September, immediately followed by a trip to India.

Home series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will follow in December and January and then comes the highlight of the season and arguably the biggest assignment since the T20 World Cup: a tour to Australia that will include three T20 and One-Day Internationals and a four-day Test.

Those matches will herald the new era for the Proteas. No longer is it the team of Dane van Niekerk, Shabnim Ismail, Trisha Chetty and Lizelle Lee, who’ve all retired and were instrumental in making South Africa’s team major contenders at World Cups.

Instead Sinalo Jafta, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Steyn and Tunnecliffe will have more room to grow and establish themselves and the team at the top of the world game. “It will be a challenge to get new people playing together and for everyone to work together,” said Luus, “but at the same time, I’m very excited and hopefully we can flourish.”

A lot will depend on her. The 27-year-old, still shy and quietly spoken, was forced to step out of the long shadow cast by Van Niekerk at this year’s World Cup. She had to weather a storm before the tournament after Van Niekerk’s controversial omission for failing to meet CSA’s fitness standards. “Leading up to the World Cup it was quite tough with all the drama going on, but once we sorted all that out and focused on cricket, everything fell into place.

“I became more responsible, it is obviously a big role, it’s brought out characteristics in me that I didn’t notice.”

Forced out of her comfort zone, with more media engagements, photo shoots and in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup, talking in front of big audiences alongside government officials became the norm, and Luus showed intelligence and determination.

She was, though, happy to escape the spotlight when she got the opportunity to play in some exhibition matches in Pakistan and a tournament in Hong Kong.

“It was like a breath of fresh air. Not many understand the pressure of being a captain in a home World Cup, not just on the field, but off it with all the media and things like that. It was awesome to just go and play and not get asked what to do, or who must field where and who is bowling next and then do media afterwards — it was quite cool.”

In the meanwhile, thanks to attention garnered by that runners-up finish at the World Cup, women’s cricket has had a spotlight shone on it more brightly than at any point in its history.

Structural initiatives around the domestic game have been a hot topic, with the government providing CSA with R15m over the next three years to help with the creation of a professional domestic league. Momentum, though no longer a headline sponsor, has committed to supporting the national under19 women’s team, while director of cricket Enoch Nkwe reportedly wants to appoint a director of women’s cricket.

“It’s been awesome to hear the kinds of things that are being planned, it is a big stepping stone for women’s cricket in the country,” said Luus. “The organisation (CSA) is very big and for one person to focus on all the different aspects is a big task, so for someone to focus specifically on the women’s game is going to be very good for us.”





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