They didn’t win the championship, but they triumphed in every other category as a wealthy and diverse audience enjoyed a special evening at Newlands.
South Africans now have firsthand experience of what it’s like to reach a final and suffer defeat. Despite their efforts and thrills, they were ultimately beaten by a team that stands head and shoulders above the rest in this game. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone who attended Sunday’s match at Newlands among the 12,782-strong crowd will attest to the unparalleled experience it provided. Not only was it the largest attendance for a women’s match in any sport in South Africa, but the crowd was also incredibly diverse and engaged.
The event was attended by a star-studded crowd that included icons of South African sport such as Francois Pienaar and Siya Kolisi, both captains of the Springbok World Cup winning teams, and Desiree Ellis, coach of the national women’s football team that won the continental championship, among others. In addition, the newly crowned winners of the girls’ Under-19 national championship, which concluded its inaugural tournament the day before, were also present. This diverse mix of individuals, from seasoned veterans to aspiring athletes, bears testament to the team’s widespread appeal. Their influence has left an indelible mark on the nation, and their story will continue to inspire for years to come.
Along with the notable personalities, a large number of regular South Africans gathered to witness every moment of the game. Among them were mothers with their daughters, who might have been inspired by the match to pursue the sport themselves, whether due to the potential it holds or an invitation they received. Long-time attendees of the Newlands stadium mentioned that this was the most diverse crowd they had ever seen in terms of race, class, culture, and age, and they were united in their joy and optimism.
The emotions experienced by the crowd ranged from disbelief that a South African team that had dropped their regular captain and lost the tournament opener had made it to the final to hope that they could go even further. Every ball was cheered and every dot was celebrated when South Africa was bowling. The crowd even applauded loudly when Shabnim Ismail delivered six dots in a row. Later, when Chloe Tryon took a running catch at deep square leg, she had the entire grass embankment behind her, both metaphorically and literally. Tryon turned to them with open arms, and the crowd’s enthusiasm was such that they would have gladly given her a massive group hug if they could.
The audience demonstrated great patience and support even when Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits initially struggled during South Africa’s powerplay, which resulted in the team’s lowest powerplay score of the tournament with only 22 runs for one wicket. However, their perseverance paid off as Wolvaardt, who is also from Cape Town, displayed a stunning array of shots down the field. Her most remarkable shot was the six she hit off Georgia Wareham in the 14th over, which kept South Africa in the game, albeit just barely.
The task of chasing down 157 against Australia was always going to be a challenging one, and the odds were stacked against South Africa. They had never beaten Australia in a T20I and had only managed to successfully chase scores over 150 five times before. Moreover, they had never faced such high stakes before. Despite the enthusiastic support from the crowd and the encouragement from Kolisi, it took more than that to win. It required the kind of strategic intelligence that Australia has perfected over the years and that South Africa could potentially acquire if they build on the legacy of this World Cup.
South Africa’s impressive performance in the World Cup should lead to increased investment in the sport and a stronger focus on improving the domestic cricket structure. One crucial step would be to fully professionalize cricket at the grassroots level and enhance the depth of talent in the country. Another aspect to consider is the establishment of a T20 league. These are all future considerations after reflecting on the tournament and acknowledging the team’s admirable efforts. The players should be proud of themselves and their achievements.
Despite the disappointment of losing, the South African team did not let it completely dampen their spirits. While it can be common for teams that unexpectedly make it to the finals to have already peaked in the semis, South Africa demonstrated their determination and resilience by putting up a competitive fight against Australia. However, the defeat still stings, as evidenced by the emotional reactions of players like Marizanne Kapp and Chloe Tryon during the national anthem and after the match. Nonetheless, by the post-game presentation, the team had regained their composure and graciously accepted their medals, even taking a lap around the stadium to thank their supporters. Looking ahead, South Africa’s performance in the tournament should serve as a catalyst for further investment in the sport and improvements in the domestic structure, ultimately leading to a deeper talent pool and a brighter future for cricket in the country.
Despite losing the final, South Africa’s best-performing white-ball team won the hearts of their fans, who warmly greeted them with love and support. Even though they didn’t come out on top in the end, their incredible performances throughout the tournament earned them a well-deserved victory in the eyes of many.