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Wolvaardt to test the waters as SA women's team interim captain

She will evaluate her leadership skills and batting in the series against Pakistan and NZ before deciding if she wants the job full time

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Laura Wolvaadrt looks on, South Africa vs Australia, Women's T20 World Cup, Gqeberha, February 18, 2023

Laura Wolvaadrt will succeed Sune Luus as South Africa women's captain  •  AFP/Getty Images

Laura Wolvaardt will use South Africa's series against Pakistan and New Zealand to see if she is "able to handle" the pressures of captaincy alongside her batting in order to decide if she wants the job full time.
Wolvaardt was named interim captain in place of Sune Luus, who stood down last week, and promised to be a "soft-spoken," skipper who will "lead through my actions." She will take charge of the team for 14 matches (six in Pakistan and eight at home against New Zealand), having done the job twice before, in ODIs against India in 2021.
"It was important for the next two tours for it [captaincy] to be more of an interim position to see if it's something I am able to handle and if I can still focus on my batting with the added responsibility," Wolvaardt said, from England, where she was playing in the Hundred. "I had a conversation with the coach and the head selector… We mutually agreed on the two tours to see if it was something I would respond well to, batting wise and leadership wise as well."
At 24, Wolvaardt is young in age but rich in experience. She made her international debut seven years ago, but is already third on South Africa's all-time highest run-getters' ODI list and sixth on their T20I charts. Plus, she has already played in three T20I and two fifty-over World Cups. She also has experience in leagues around the world. She is also one of only two squad members - Luus being the other - who has played in Pakistan. Given the importance of the ODI matches, in particular, which are part of the qualification process for the next World Cup, South Africa will need Wolvaardt at her best and coach Hilton Moreeng believes they will get it.
"She is a very disciplined cricketer. The way she goes about her game is evident to everyone in the team. I don't think the responsibility will impact her performance," Moreeng said. "She knows the importance of both roles she plays in the team. We don't think it should be a challenge regarding her performances."
Wolvaardt herself is "excited," by the opportunity and "looking forward to actually doing it," despite indicating she was not ready to captain earlier in the year. That, she says, was a bluff out of respect for the incumbents. "It's definitely always something that has been in the back of my mind. At the time, we had great leaders in Dane and Sune so I didn't want to say anything that could impact that," she said. "I was just biding my time and the opportunity has presented itself. I am very excited. I think it will test me as a cricketer and develop my game as well."
Asked how she will approach the task of leadership, Wolvaardt replied with the class of one of her cover drives. "I like to think of myself as quite calm and composed. I am hoping I am able to bring that on the field as well but we'll see what happens in tight games," she joked. "I am a little bit more soft-spoken than what other captains might be. I am just going to try and lead from my actions and lead from the front. Hopefully that's alright."
Wolvaardt has not been part of the team's pre-tour camp in South Africa because she has been playing in the women's Hundred and will meet up with the squad in Pakistan. She does not see her absence from what Moreeng described as an intense discussion on the issues affecting the squad, including some players' unhappiness with him continuing in the job, as an issue. "I've been in the side for seven or eight years. It's not like I am coming into a side where I don't know half of the people," she said.
She was also not in South Africa for the launch for the announcement of the professionalism of the top-tier of the women's domestic game, which will see 66 players contracted across six teams. Having given up the opportunity to pursue a degree in medicine to build a career in cricket, Wolvaardt knows first-hand the sacrifices generations of female cricketers had to make to play the game and welcomed the development.
"It's incredible that girls have a bit more of a pathway to come through," she said. "It's always been a challenge for us to fill the gaps because there is not much support outside of the national team or there wasn't. I'm really looking forward to the future. We will be able to keep a lot more young girls in cricket. They will actually see it as a viable career option. And it takes a little bit of pressure off the contracted players as well because you have that safety net to fall back on. Hopefully we are able to play with a bit more freedom knowing that we have that."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket