Women's cricket on the way up: Du Preez
South Africa are making strides in women's cricket, according to national captain Mignon du Preez, after the Proteas women returned home from the Women's World Cup on Tuesday.
The Proteas women finished in sixth position, losing to Sri Lanka in the fifth-place playoff in Cuttack, India.
"We are definitely more competitive than we used to be," Du Preez said.
"We've moved up two places from eighth to sixth, and some of the top teams are beginning to take note of us."
She ascribed the improvement in the team's performance to more training camps and exposure to different coaches.
"We were able to tap into some of the resources the men enjoy, like performance coaches and that sort of thing, and we also had coaches from some of the men's team coming to help us. That opened our eyes to a different perspective on the game," Du Preez said.
"I also think women's cricket is being taken more seriously. We still hear the negative comments, but people are beginning to realise that we are good athletes who play our game very well.
"A lot of that is the result of more cricket being televised, which means people are exposed to what women's cricket is all about. Some of the World Cup games were televised and had massive viewership."
Du Preez said the Proteas women's next big tournament was the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh next year, but they were hoping to play a number of international fixtures before then.
"While we were outside the top six, it was hard to set up matches against the top teams, but that has changed now," she said.
"Australia (Women's World Cup champions), were very impressed with us because we gave them a real run for their money, and they will be more willing to play us now. We need to compete against the very best in order to lift our game."
Coach Hilton Moreeng believed the standard of women's cricket as a whole had improved.
"It's not just us -¬ women's cricket has made giant strides in the last four years," he said.
He said the fact that the team now had a sponsor – Momentum came on board in January – would make a massive difference.
"It means we can plan for more international matches and also for more academies, training camps and Super Four tournaments involving the best players in the country," he said.
"We have some outstanding players and I believe women's cricket in South Africa is going to go from strength to strength."