As the world grapples to bridge the gap between men and women in sport, UWC alumna Andrie Steyn has watched with interest and excitement as the South African cricket sector makes waves to narrow the divide in recent years.
The national right-hand specialist batswoman believes that although there is still a difference between men and women cricketers, a lot has been done to turn the situation around. “We are definitely on the right track but we still have a lot of catching up to do to be on par with countries like Australia and England, who have much better structures,” she comments.
Steyn, who has earned 37 caps with the senior national women’s cricket team, cites travel and accommodation conditions for professional cricketers as a case in point. “We (female cricketers) now stay in the same accommodation as men do when playing away games. We used to fly economy class and they (men cricketers) would fly business class. All of that stuff is sort of the same now. But obviously, pay-wise, they still get more but you understand because they bring in a lot more revenue than us. However, there is clearly an effort from Cricket South Africa to lessen that gap, which is very nice.”
The Durban-born star also mentions the contracts offered to top women cricketers as another step forward. Cricket South Africa offers 14 top-ranked cricketers annual contracts while Western Province Cricket [for whom Steyn is the reigning Women's Player of the Year] is believed to be working on sorting their top athletes and turning the sport into a semi-professional set up.
And Steyn believes this will go a long way to making cricket stronger. “Currently a lot of girls will play until matric and, thereafter, try to focus on studies and earn money in another way. And that is when the sport loses quite a few girls. This can change that. We are definitely on the right track but we still have a lot of ground to cover.”
Steyn joined UWC in 2016 and has been playing for the University team, the Western Province team and the Proteas. After completing her Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Sports Science last year, she is now pursuing her honours in high-performance sport at the neighbouring Stellenbosch University but still plays for the UWC Cricket Club.
Although she was already a member of the Proteas team when she enrolled on campus, Steyn believes that UWC has helped her grow, both academically and in cricket. The University has always been keen to support her when she was on tour and the Sports Skills for Life Skills (SS4LS) programme has made things much easier for student cricketers, she says.
And cricket has made her a better person, too. “I’ve learnt a quite a bit, especially in the last year and a half. An ankle injury from the World Cup and low run of form broke everything down but I’ve learnt to be patient with myself; to separate myself as a sportsperson from me as a human being — these two things need to be separated.”
This article was first published in the Women's Month special edition of the Blue and Gold - UWC Sports' official magazine. Read the full magazine here or click the cover image below.
Steyn photos courtesy BackpagePix for Cricket SA