The hair was from a movie set. The clothes were from a magazine. The crutches and moon boot were from a hospital. Dane van Niekerk made a striking sight as she waited on the wrong side of the turnstiles at Newlands in January.
After breaking her ankle in a slip on the side of the swimming pool at her home near Gqeberha, there was no way Van Niekerk was going to the World Cup. The accident had happened on the last day of South Africa’s rousing win in the second men’s Test against India at the Wanderers. Five days later the deciding match of the series started in Cape Town. Unexpectedly at a loose end, Van Niekerk was enlisted to offer her opinions on television. But it seemed no-one involved had realised that, to be granted access to the Newlands media centre, she would need to be accredited.
So there she was, all dressed up with nowhere to go on the pavement outside the ground. She was calm and respectful as functionaries scurried hither and thither trying to resolve the issue, but her face was frozen with what looked like frustration. Van Niekerk had been wrenched from a tournament that could have made her the first captain of a senior South Africa side, regardless of gender, to win a World Cup. No doubt the knowledge that her wife, Marizanne Kapp, whose 32nd birthday she had helped celebrate two days before the catastrophe, would indeed be shooting for glory in New Zealand only added to the hurt of missing out.