- Dane van Niekerk will miss the T20 Women's World Cup hosted in South Africa from 10-26 February.
- Van Niekerk failed to meet the minimum fitness requirements in order to feature for South Africa in next week's World Cup.
- CSA convenor of selectors Clinton du Preez admitted that Van Niekerk would be missed but insisted that they had to remain consistent with their fitness decisions.
The Proteas women will be without the experience of regular skipper and all-rounder Dane van Niekerk ahead of next week's T20 Women's World Cup held in South Africa.
Sune Luus will wear once again the captaincy armband for the first women's World Cup on African soil.
Van Niekerk last played for South Africa in September 2021 after sustaining a left ankle fracture last January, which ruled her out of the entire year for the Proteas women.
She returned to competitive action last year in August in the Hundred and then took part in December's CSA Women's Super League for the Starlights.
Van Niekerk scored an unbeaten 50 off 47 balls, along with capturing two for 13 against the SA Women's Under-19 team at Newlands in December.
However, on Tuesday, Van Niekerk was the big talking point with her notable omission from the Proteas women's T20 World Cup squad, with convenor of selectors Clinton du Preez confirming that she had failed a late fitness test.
"Dane was given an extensive opportunity to meet the minimum criteria for the fitness benchmark for eligibility for the World Cup. She recently did another fitness test and, unfortunately, did not meet the minimum criteria, and therefore, she's missed out of the team this year," Du Preez told reporters on Tuesday.
"She, unfortunately, did not meet the minimum requirement of the 2km; a similar decision was taken for the Tri-Series. They've worked and assisted her into trying to get there."
READ | Proteas suffer Van Niekerk blow, Luus named skipper for T20 World Cup
Van Niekerk's absence continues to be a huge blow for the Proteas, who've already lost recently retired Mignon du Preez and Lizelle Lee and the injured Trisha Chetty.
It's been a long journey for Van Niekerk to regain back her fitness, and it saw her miss out on the ongoing T20 Tri-Series in East London against India and West Indies.
"Dane has been an integral part of the team. She's not been around the team for a while. She was replaced by Sune Luus as the leader. I think the skillset of Dane as a cricketer will always be missed on the cricket field," said Du Preez.
"We've had this discussion with her, we've extensively reminded her of that and also appreciated the hard work that she's put in to try and get to the fitness level.
"The team has played for a while without her. I think there's a lot of responsibility on the players and the current leadership to take this forward and to ensure that they go out in the World Cup, represent and try and keep the team together."
Following the World Cup squad announcement, Van Niekerk posted a message on social media to say that she was "absolutely broken".
Cricket SA has deployed very strict fitness measures, with Proteas seamer Sisanda Magala and Lee feeling the brunt and subsequently being ruled out of national selection. It prompted hard-hitting batter Lee to call quits on her international career as she now plies her trade as a T20 player.
South Africa's fitness standards require female cricketers to run 2km in 9 minutes 30 seconds, and ESPNcricinfo reported that Van Niekerk ran a personal best in the test but was over by 18 seconds.
Du Preez insisted that Van Niekerk and every Proteas player knew the requirements needed to make the World Cup squad.
"It's just remaining consistent with our decisions. It's not something that has been brought up recently. Many other players have gone down this route," said Du Preez.
"We've had open discussions with everyone, and they are quite familiar with what was required. In December, we had a discussion with Dane and set it out clearly as to what she needs to do and where we expect her to be. We acknowledge the improvement that she's made.
"I think as a team, we want to set the benchmark with regards to fitness and therefore ensure that all the players meet that. So I don't think it's anything towards Dane as a cricketer. I think we're testing everyone fairly, and we want to remain consistent in our decisions."
Luus will lead the Proteas in the Tri-Series final on Thursday at Buffalo Park at 15:00.
The Proteas begin their T20 World Cup campaign on Friday, 10 February against Sri Lanka at Newlands.
Tickets are on sale now on TicketPro from R30, with all 23 matches hosted in Cape Town, Paarl and Gqeberha.