England have the upper hand but South Africa have home support
This semi-final match could set the tone for a generation of women's players to come
Big picture: England the favourites
South Africa in a semi-final. Against England. You think you know how this ends, don't you?
Three times in three meetings - at the 2014 T20 World Cup and 2017 and 2022 fifty-over World Cup - England have emerged triumphant from a final four meeting against South Africa and there's no doubt they have the historical upper hand. They also have the contemporary one.
England go into this semi-final on the back of an unbeaten run that stretches back 10 games and on an upward trajectory. They beat their last group stage opponents - Pakistan - by 114 runs, the biggest margin in Women's T20 World Cups. On the same day, South Africa made heavy work of chasing exactly that number of runs against Bangladesh. While their opening pair found form, their middle-order remains unproven in this tournament and they rely heavily on their bowling attack. That means the big match-up in this game will be between South Africa's bowlers and the Bazbelles that make up England's batting line-up.
Nat Sciver-Brunt has led the charge and finished the group stage as the leading run-scorer and though Heather Knight and Alice Capsey have had relatively quiet tournaments so far, England have plenty of firepower. They also have the knowledge that South Africa's fielding, especially as the situation gets more tense, can fray and will demand the hosts put on a better display than they have managed to so far if they are to stand any chance of advancing to their first World Cup final.
For all that's against them, South Africa have one big thing in their favour: home support. Newlands has already seen a record crowd for a women's international - of over 7,500 people - in the tournament opener and the semi-final match could set a new one and the tone for a generation of women's players to come.
In the end, the legacy of this semi-final may prove to be crucial in a country like South Africa where the domestic system remains fragile and at risk of falling further behind countries like Australia, England and India. South Africa have come closest to breaking the big three hegemony on the growth of the women's game and this tournament will be a litmus test for how far off the pace or close to the boil they are.
South Africa WLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Sune Luus and Sophia Dunkley
Suné Luus earned her 100th T20I cap in South Africa's last, must-win group-stage match against Bangladesh but has yet to fully impose herself on the home World Cup. She has shown positive intent but been dismissed taking on the spinners twice, something she will want to improve on as she negotiates the middle overs. That is also her challenge in the field. While Luus seems to have a plan upfront with Nonkululekho Mlaba and a rotation of the quicks in the Powerplay, she will have to devise a plan against England's strong middle-order.
For all England's big-hitting, opening batter Sophia Dunkley has had a quiet tournament with a highest score of 34 in their opener against West Indies and three knocks of 10 runs or fewer since. Dunkley has been struggling to clear the ball in the 'V' and has twice holed out to mid-on but there's enough evidence to suggest she can get that shot right. She came into the tournament in good touch and blasted unbeaten scores of 59 off 19 balls and 60 off 38 balls against South Africa and New Zealand respectively and will want to bring out her most attacking game in the semi-finals.
Team news: Bell to return for England
South Africa have preferred Anneke Bosch over Delmi Tucker and Ayabonga Khaka over Masabata Klaas for their matches at Newlands and are likely to stick to that combination.
South Africa: 1 Laura Wolvaardt, 2 Tazmin Brits, 3 Marizanne Kapp, 4 Suné Luus (capt), 5 Chloe Tryon, 6 Anneke Bosch, 7 Nadine de Klerk, 8 Sinalo Jafta (wk), 9 Shabnim Ismail, 10 Ayabonga Khaka, 11 Nonkululekho Mlaba
After resting Lauren Bell for the match against Pakistan, England are set to return to their first-choice XI.
England: 1 Danni Wyatt, 2 Sophia Dunkley, 3 Alice Capsey, 4 Nat Sciver-Brunt, 5 Heather Knight (capt), 6 Amy Jones (wk), 7 Sophie Ecclestone, 8 Katherine Sciver-Brunt, 9 Sarah Glenn, 10 Charlie Dean, 11 Lauren Bell
Pitch and conditions
Newlands has hosted 16 T20s this summer across the SA20 and Women's World Cup and its square is showing signs of late season fatigue. Apart from fairly low and sometimes uneven bounce, the pitches have lacked pace and offered some turn which is contrary to what teams usually expect in South Africa. Only England have seemed free-flowing at this venue while bowlers on all sides have learnt not to err on the short side, but pitch it up instead. Temperatures are cooler than last week, with the maximum expected in the mid-20s, no rain and only the gentlest of breezes.
Stats and trivia
- In head-to-head terms, England hold the upper hand. They have won 19 out of 23 T20Is against South Africa, and only lost to them once at a World Cup - in February 2020.
- England have a batting strike rate of 154.77 against spin in this tournament - the best of any team.
- South Africa's strike rate against pace is 94.44, the third worst behind New Zealand and Bangladesh.
That's great, then there's no pressure on us or anything. We can just go out and enjoy, play free cricket, enjoy the moment and try to do our best.
Asked if South Africa have been written off before a ball has even bowled Suné Luus was bullish.
"The pressure is all on South Africa. It's the home World Cup for them. So, we're just going to keep doing what we're doing. There's such a calm feeling in our group at the minute, which is really nice. So, I think we're not going to change anything. It's just going to be really important to stay calm and just enjoy each other's company, I guess. And just go out there, back ourselves and what will be, will be."
But Danni Wyatt says the ball is in South Africa's court.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket