South Africa women's captain Dane van Niekerk has been declared fit for the World Cup in June, when she is expected to have fully recovered from a foot injury. Van Niekerk was prescribed six weeks' rest after sustaining the injury earlier this month. She sat out of the recent quadrangular series, South Africa's last preparatory event before the World Cup, but should be ready for their opening match on June 25.
Van Niekerk will be the only member short of match practice. The rest of the squad consists entirely of players who took part in the four-team tournament, including Nadine de Klerk and Raisibe Ntozakhe, who both debuted in the series. South Africa won five out of six matches in the round-robin stage and reached the final, where they lost to India.
Their most notable performance was an eight-run victory over India in the ninth match. They also had a selection of individual moments to savour. Eighteen-year-old Laura Wolvaardt scored one of South Africa's two centuries in the competition - Andrie Steyn hit the other - as South Africa racked up 337 for 5, their highest ODI total, against Ireland . On the bowling front, Shabnim Ismail topped the tournament charts.
South Africa go into the event on the back of a two-and-a-half year period that coach Hilton Moreeng believes stands them in good stead. "I believe that we finally have the winning formula. The balance in the side is just right," he said.
Since October 2014, South Africa have won series in Sri Lanka, India, the UAE against Pakistan, Ireland and Bangladesh. But they have not been able to overcome New Zealand, Australia, England or West Indies - although they won isolated matches against all teams except Australia.
Being able to overhaul some of the better teams in the women's game will be foremost on the agenda in England, but so will adapting to unfamiliar conditions. The last time a South Africa women's side toured England for ODIs was in 2008, although they played a three-match T20 series in the country in 2014. Some players, including van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee and Ismail, were part of the Women's Super League last year, which they believe will help with the adjustments. "With a few of us having a bit of experience of English conditions, we are confident going into the tournament that we are going to give it our very best and leave it all on the field by the time it ends," van Niekerk said.
South Africa's best finish at a Women's World Cup was in 2000, when they lost to Australia in the semi-final. They have not finished in the top four since, but their structures have become professional, national contracts have been awarded and they have high-profile sponsorship.
CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat praised the team for achieving the goal they set three years ago - of qualifying for the World Cup - but Danie van den Bergh, head of their title backer Momentum, backed them to go all the way. "It has been exciting to see the team grow in world rankings and again earn their spot and in the World Cup," he said. "This shows what can be achieved when we invest in the sport and developing the player. We wish the team the very best and hope their representation inspires and encourages young women and girls, or any young South Africans, to get involved and to dream those big dreams. Bring it home ladies."