Cricketer Dané van Niekerk Reflects On Her Long, Successful Career

by | Mar 24, 2023 | Profile

This week, cricketer Dané van Niekerk announced her retirement from the Proteas, after a long and successful career. On News24, Dané said that she’s grateful for her time on the biggest stage in women’s cricket. “It has been the greatest honour to lead and represent my country. I am incredibly blessed to have led the team through its transformative years. There is no doubt that the women’s game is in an exciting space and looking forward to seeing this beautiful game that I love grow.”

We spoke to Dané van Niekerk about her career, upsets and highs.

From the time she was a child, she was running around the yard, chucking balls at her brother for him to bat, darting out to collect them, then chucking them at him again. She can’t even lie down at the beach. “I don’t lay down and tan,” she muses. “I get frustrated quickly and have to be busy.” So it’s understandable, then, that taking a full year from cricket would be torture for her.

Dané suffered an injury in early January 2022 when her ankle fractured while slipping on a wet surface at home. She didn’t want to accept that she was seriously injured. “I kept telling myself, ‘It’s just a ligament, it’s just a ligament,’ even though I was in excruciating pain.” It was just one look from the woman in the radiology department that confirmed Dané’s greatest fear: a fracture. Just like that, she was on a break for the better part of a year.

What followed became a year of learning and growing internally.

Take Stock

By the time of the interview, Dané had played a total of three games for the entire year. “I didn’t think it would take a mental toll one me. Physically I obviously expected it but mentally it was a knock,” she says about her time off. Dané watched the cricket World Cup at home, wishing she could be on the field. Suddenly, she realised how much cricket meant to her. “It’s my life. I’ve been doing it since I was 14 years old. It’s all I know. It’s your identity and for it to be taken away, you don’t know who you are,” she says.

As her body mended, she decided to reach out to a psychologist to help her cope. “There was a day that came and I just phoned my mom and I said to her, ‘I’m not ok.’ And my mom said, ‘I know,’” she says. “I’ve always prided myself on my strong character, I’ve always thought that as a captain, I need to be strong, not weak. So I didn’t want to admit to myself that I’m actually going through a really bad time.”

Through therapy, she’s learned to not place her entire identity on the sport, and to be patient with herself as she prepares her body to be in tip-top shape again. “So it’s about taking a step back and just identifying where I’m at, acknowledging it, and then look forward again,” she says.

Appreciate What You Have

There’s a lot to look forward to: last month, the T20 Women’s World Cup was being held right here in this country, which is an extra-special event for South Africans and our players. “For my teammates and myself, [for] our families to be able to be at home and watching us play in front of them at home in a world stage is really special,” she says.

The team is probably one of the best things about cricket, aside from the actual game. Fifteen women, all collaborating together for one goal. Dané, who was at the helm, saw herself as just one of the gang. “You butt heads some of the time, but 95% of the time it’s such a fun environment to be in to make friends that last a lifetime, and memories as well,” she says.

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