If a shortlist would be compiled of South African cricketers – male or female – who produced the most memorable performances in the moment critique the past nine months, the proudly Northerns and Momentum Proteas Women’s Mignon du Preez might just feature prominently.
Du Preez was devastated after the women’s team lost by two wickets with two balls to spare against England in the ICC Women’s World Cup, but she did not lick the wounds for too long.
Instead, she answered the SOS call from the Southern Vipers for the upcoming Kia Super League to replace the injured Dané van Niekerk.
“I had one of my best seasons ever for South Africa,” said du Preez
Du Preez struck an unbeaten 76 in the semi-final against England, and finished the global showpiece with 229 runs at an average of 57.25.
When the chips were down against New Zealand in the 2016/2017, Du Preez led the chase in stylish fashion and her 80 gave South Africa the spoils. It was the first-ever victory by South Africa against the Kiwi’s in an international 50-over showpiece.
Earlier in the season, she slammed 79 as South Africa clinched the series against Bangladesh.
Against Ireland, she struck an unbeaten 116, her best-ever score in a One Day International.
Against Pakistan, she featured in her 100th One Day International for South Africa at the Women’s Cricket World Cup, the first SA woman to achieve that feat.
‘First’ is something you associate with Du Preez. She was the first woman to score a century for South Africa in a Test while leading her side in her maiden Test.
“I think it was a good decision to relinquish the captaincy last year. My batting curve moved upwards after that,” she added. “I like the shots square of the wickets, but also the cover drive.
“I had to extend my attacking options on the subcontinent, and achieved that by adding the reverse sweep and the sweep. If I did not do that, I would not have been able to rotate the strike against the spinners.”
A teenage-prodigy, Du Preez made headlines when, at the age of 12, she struck 258 with sixteen sixes and 25 fours for the Northerns under 13s against Gauteng.
Jacques du Preez helped to transform a wonder kid into an international star, as he performed much of the foundational work as talent spotter who nurtured his daughter from a very young age with tender loving care.
At the age of 17, she made her international debut against Pakistan and immediately rose to prominence with an unbeaten 55 from 69. She featured in a SA record partnership of 224 with Johmari Logtenberg against Netherlands shortly afterwards.
The longevity of Du Preez is one of her greatest traits, as she has been involved at Northerns for 17 years and has been the kingpin of the Momentum Proteas for more than a decade.
Du Preez has the talent, temperament and the class but mentally, she also possesses that inner drive to excel and become an even greater global icon.
The legendary Olympic superstar Michael Phelps is on record saying: “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.”
And that is exactly what the 28-year old Du Preez, supported by her cricket-loving husband Tony van der Merwe, and her parents are doing.
“I think one of the greatest reasons for success is my support structure. Tony loves cricket even more than I do. My parents would be up after midnight with their laptops following the live scoring on the internet when we play against the West Indies and Australia away from home.”
“I live by the motto that stumbling blocks are stepping stones and that one should see your failure as an opportunity to try again, but next time with a bit more experience,” she added.
Du Preez said she wants to emulate the feats of Ellyse Perry of Australia and the legendary Mithali Raj, captain of India (who has scored 6190 One Day International runs).
“I want to bat through the innings and finish undefeated on more occasions.
“I think I want to improve my consistency and conversion rate. I do much of the hard work and then move to 30 or 40. But I should capitalize on that more - that is my dream,” she said.
Vincent Barnes, the High Performance Manager of Cricket South Africa, says Du Preez possesses the potential to become one of the world’s top-ten batsmen if she can improve her consistency, as seen in the stars in the Australian and England teams.
Du Preez intends doing just that. “In the Super League, I am looking forward to learning from England stars like Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards.”
Fellow Northerns’ and Protea teammate Suné Luus has also been selected for the second edition of the inaugural T20 competition, which gets underway on 10 August. The all-rounder will feature for Yorkshire Diamonds; one of six teams competing for a place in the final on 1 September at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove.