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Hilton Moreeng backs his experienced South Africa side ahead of India & T20 World Cup challenge

East London (South Africa), Feb 2 (IANS) Head coach Hilton Moreeng believes his experienced South Africa side is well-equipped and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead of them, starting from the tri-series final against India, followed by the Women’s T20 World Cup at home.

The women’s T20I tri-series finale between South Africa and India gets underway at Buffalo Park in East London on Thursday evening. Ahead of the final, Moreeng emphasized the importance of staying in the present, with the focus solely on finishing strong against a talented Indian team before looking ahead to the World Cup.

“The most important for us is to look at where the squad is and where everyone needs to be before we can leave Buffalo Park. Once we are happy with what we are seeing with most of the players, then we can look into and worry about the World Cup.”

“With every preparation, every game that we’ve had, even the practice matches that we had, the World Cup has always been the bigger picture, but we realized that it is one day at a time. We have a (tri-series) final against India, wherein the first game we didn’t start well.”

“You could see the rustiness from the players, that competitive edge was not where it was supposed to be because of the break that we had but it has been an upward curve for the squad and we’re very happy to see how the team is moving in the right direction in these conditions. It is just about making sure now that we can finish off well and take the momentum into the World Cup,” he said.

After the competition of the tri-series, South Africa will be based in Stellenbosch to finalise their T20 World Cup preparations before kicking off the tournament in the opening game against Sri Lanka on February 10 at the Newlands Cricket Ground.

With the weight of expectations of an entire nation placed on the team, Moreeng is backing his side’s experience in recent global ICC events, with the squad fully aware of what will be needed in order to be successful, albeit in a World Cup on home soil.

“For us, it goes without saying; you’re playing at home, you have an opportunity to win a World Cup in front of your home supporters, that is what every player in the squad has been speaking about for the last year and a half.”

“Its conditions that most of us are familiar with and we want to give ourselves the best chance. The first hurdle for us is to make sure we get through the group stages and get ourselves in the knockout stages and then we can take it from there.”

“We have enough experience. Most of the core players that are currently in the squad have been to the World Cup, they have experienced these semi-finals and they know what is required going forward,” he added.

The biggest talking point ahead of the T20 World Cup has been the omission of regular captain and all-rounder, Dané van Niekerk from the 15-player squad. The 29-year-old missed out on eligibility for selection after not succeeding in a bid to meet the team’s minimum physical requirements.

Whilst sympathising with Dane, Moreeng highlighted the importance of focusing on the way forward for the squad. “It’s been tough on everyone and the player that I know will be very disappointed because of what has transpired. But at end of the day, we as a team, we need to move on and we know we’ve got a final that we need to focus on tomorrow.”

“Overall, the team has been working hard and yes, these kinds of disappointments are one of those things in sport that you deal with and at end of the day, we need to move on as a team.”