The Knights will begin life after Nicky Boje with a difficult home clash against champions the Titans when the 4-Day Franchise Series resumes in Bloemfontein from Wednesday.
The former Proteas spinner ended his three-year stint with the union during the Mzansi Super League break, with assistant Alan Kruger stepping in until the end of the season.
The central franchise are currently third in the competition standings, with their 71.56 points leaving them just over 30 behind leaders the Cape Cobras (102.86).
The premier first-class competition was halted at the halfway stage for the Twenty20 campaign, and there is another two-week gap coming for the Christmas and New Year period.
There was no MSL T20 cricket in the Free State – Bloemfontein did not have a team – but Kruger says that may have been a good thing, adding that they were ready for red ball resumption.
‘Most of our guys have been playing provincial cricket and with distinction too,’ he said. ‘I’m not too concerned going into this game in terms of our workload and that sort of stuff.
‘In fact, it may have been a blessing that only a few of our guys were away playing in the T20 competition. Coming to this weekend, the guys are in a good space. It will all boil down to who wants it more, so we look forward to it.’
Rain has hampered preparation ahead of the Mangaung Oval clash, but the coach says they have made the most of their indoor facilities, adding that the Knights will be ready for what is expected to be a Proteas-laden Titans squad.
‘We know they’re coming with a star-studded team, but we’ll be looking in-house at our own processes and looking at how we can improve on our record of two wins, two losses and the one draw,’ Kruger stated.
For the reigning champion Titans, who have 58.54 points, the season has not gone at all according to plan. They are one of just two winless sides in the four-day game, the other being basement side the Dolphins, and trail the Cobras by nearly 50 points.
Assistant coach Mandla Mashimbyi feels that only a win will do for Mark Boucher’s side as they look to get their season back on track.
‘I think every game from here on is very important,’ he said. ‘What we’re in control of now is what’s coming and what we’re going to do. It’s a nice opportunity for us to get back into the pack and to give ourselves a chance.
‘It’s very important that we play to the level that we want to play. We have our Proteas available as well for this game. That will help us.’