Great Dane, Proteas quicks pose threat

South Africa's bowling attack looms as a major obstacle for Australia in their final group-stage match of the World Cup

South Africa leg-spinner Dane van Niekerk is the Women's World Cup's leading wicket taker, but Australia wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy says the Proteas' fiery new-ball attack is the main threat her team will need to counter on Saturday.

Australia will meet South Africa in Taunton in their final group match and while both teams have already secured a spot in the semi-finals, there's still plenty on the line with the opportunity to finish top of the table.

Proteas skipper van Niekerk has spun a web in her six matches to date, taking 13 wickets at 6.46 – three more than the next closest players, teammate Marizanne Kapp, and leg-spinners Kristen Beams (Australia), New Zealand's Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), who have 10 apiece.

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Those performances included taking 4-0 against West Indies, a feat never achieved before by any player, male or female.

On Wednesday, she snared 4-24 to help bowl out Sri Lanka for 101 runs, while she took 4-22 to lead her side to victory over India last weekend.

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But Healy said Australia would first need to counter the Proteas' key pace weapons of Kapp and Shabnim Ismail.

Kapp is the world's top-ranked ODI bowler and has 10 wickets at 18.30 to her name for the tournament, while Ismail - one of the world's quickest bowlers – breathing down her neck with nine scalps at 21.00. 

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"(Van Niekerk) hasn't bowled against us yet, so it'll be interesting to see how she goes," Healy said before the Australian team departed Bristol for nearby Taunton. 

"They've got their tails up with a couple of good wins in the last couple of days. 

"She's one we'll look at and someone we'll look to conquer.

"But their new-ball attack at the front is a big one for us to counter. 

"And then obviously in the middle overs we'll have to deal with Dane."

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South Africa's 24-year-old captain took just four wickets in four matches during her team's five-match tour of Australia last summer, three of those coming in the one match when she dismissed Nicole Bolton, Alex Blackwell and Elyse Villani.

Healy expects there to be some assistance for the spinners, with the wickets wearing in the latter stages of the tournament, but said Australia could handle the threat.

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"Generally she's pretty consistent, I've found," she said.

"On some pretty old wickets she might get a bit of turn, which will be interesting, and she's always at the front pad which is quite difficult. 

"Hopefully we can play the way we have been, which is to play nice and straight and treat her the same as we have every other spinner we have this tournament."

Healy knows both van Niekerk and Kapp better than most, having played alongside them for Sydney Sixers in the Rebel Women's Big Bash League.

She expects the inside knowledge to help Australia combat the pair on Saturday, while she's also expecting there to be a bit of chat in the middle.

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"I guess a little bit, we tend to not focus too much on the opposition, we focus on ourselves and what we can do and playing our best game," she said. 

"But it does help a little bit having both them at the Sixers and playing in the WBBL. 

"We've got footage and other things to look at which is handy. 

"We'll focus on what we need to do, which is go out and win, and hopefully we can get the job done again.

"There often is a little (of banter) but they always just laugh and find it funny. 

"It'll be pretty light-hearted and not very feisty, but there's always a bit of banter which is good."

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Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

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