The CSA Provincial T20 Knock Out competition continues on Tuesday with Pool B matches at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.
Pool A’s fixtures in the four-pool competition took place this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Pool B now set to play out over the coming three days in a bio-secure environment in the Free State.
Hosts the Knights (Free State) will begin their quest for the T20 title against the Titans (Northerns) on Tuesday at 10am, with an afternoon affair between Division 2 sides, the Mpumalanga Rhinos and the Tuskers (KZN Inland), set for 2:30pm.
Each team will play each other once, with the top two teams advancing to the knockout rounds. They will join SWD and Western Province, who became the first two teams to book their places in the quarter-finals.
Knights head coach Allan Donald says the spirit in the camp is high as they look to get off to a winning start against Division 1 rivals, the Titans. Both teams enjoyed similar preparation in the buildup to the competition with a T20 series against Namibia.
Led by Pite van Biljon, the home team will be boosted by the return of Rilee Rossouw as well as the experience of Wandile Makwetu, Migael Pretorius and veteran Farhaan Behardien.
“We can’t be more prepared than we are right now,” said Donald. “It’s going to be very tough in terms of selection. I take my hat off to all the players who have worked so hard to get themselves into a position to challenge for a spot in the team.
“It adds a bit of pressure playing at home. We know the pitch conditions extremely well and there are no excuses for us. We are playing on the biggest ground in South Africa with the biggest boundaries and we’ve got to go out there and use that home-ground advantage.”
The Knights will be up against familiar opposition on Tuesday, with the likes of Grant Mokwena having made the move from the Knights back to the Titans. Mokwena isn’t the only Titan to make his return, with Aaron Phangiso and Corbin Bosch donning the Sky Blues kit again this summer.
The Titans, like most of the teams competing across the competition, also welcomed some new, younger faces to their change room in the off-season.
“We have a lot of new players in the squad,” said head coach Mandla Mashimbyi. “What helps with new players in the team is that they bring some new energy and a new perspective. I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring out in the middle come Tuesday.
“The younger players are also relishing the opportunity to learn as much as they can from the players that have been around the Titans for some time now, including the likes of Dean [Elgar] and Aaron. By observing how they train, the younger players are learning certain routines that will help them take their game to the next level.”
The Tuskers will feature a strong lineup with the inclusion of T20 specialist Cameron Delport, captain Michael Erlank and home-grown talent Kyle Nipper.
“Having a guy like Cameron in the team is great, as he adds so much on and off the field within our squad,” said head coach Michael Smith. “We have a nice mix of some high-quality experienced players, and we have some seriously exciting young talent who hopefully will showcase what they’ve got and start making a name for themselves.”
Smith has also urged his side to take it one game at a time if they are to contend for a place in the quarter-finals.
“Every single game we play we are going to need to be at our absolute best. We are not getting ahead of ourselves and looking too far in front. We are really working hard to ensure we give ourselves the best possible chance of starting the tournament well. We’ve got the Rhinos up first and that’s what we are focusing on.”
As to what to expect from the Rhinos in their first outing, head coach Gordon Matheson said: “We are massively aware that we’re heading into the competition with an underdog tag, and we’re more than happy to fly under the radar and hopefully surprise some teams. We won’t be holding anything back and will be looking to play a fearless brand of cricket.”
Matheson also believes the competition, which forms part of the new domestic structure, will provide Mpumalanga Cricket the opportunity to strengthen cricket talent in the region.
“The home-grown element is massive because it helps show the guys who are currently in the province and pipeline that there is a way into first-class cricket, whereas before, the players had to leave the province to get a chance to play at this level. Now there is a platform for any given player in Mpumalanga to go on to compete at the highest level of domestic cricket.”
The competition is being broadcast live on SuperSport.
Tuskers squad: Michael Erlank (c), Cameron Delport, Tshepang Dithole, Keith Dudgeon, Kyle Nipper, Kurtlyn Mannikam, Andile Mogakane, Thula Ngcobo, Zakariya Paruk, Luke Schlemmer, Cameron Shekleton, Nduduzo Mfoza, Mondli Khumalo, Gareth Dukes, Mathew Pollard.
Knights squad: Pite van Biljon (c), Farhaan Behardien, Patrick Botha, Mbulelo Budaza, Gerald Coetzee, Matthew Kleinveldt, Dilivio Ridgaard, Gregory Mahlokwana, Wandile Makwetu, Mangaliso Mosehle, Alfred Mothoa, Migael Pretorius, Rilee Rossouw, Jacques Snyman, Nealan van Heerden, Raynard van Tonder.
Titans squad: Dean Elgar (c), Corbin Bosch, Bonga Chepkonga, Dayyaan Galiem, Aya Gqamane, Okuhle Cele, Neil Brand, Jiveshen Pillay, Jan Hendrik Pretorius, Grant Mokoena, Aaron Phangiso, Gihahn Cloete, Sibonelo Makhanya, Donovan Ferreira, Jarred Jardine.
Mpumalanga Rhinos squad: Yassar Cook (c), Jared Alder, Rubin Hermann, Jon Hinrichsen, Kyle Klesse, Alex Kok, Brian Koto, Akhulile Mkhatu, Kgaudise Molefe, Luvuyo Nkese, Liam Peters, Blake Schraader, Bamanye Xenxe.
Pool B fixtures (Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein):
Tuesday, 28 September
Knights vs Titans (10am)
Mpumalanga Rhinos vs Tuskers (2:30pm)
Wednesday, 29 September
Tuskers vs Knights (10am)
Mpumalanga Rhinos vs Titans (2:30pm)
Thursday, 30 September
Tuskers vs Titans (10am)
Mpumalanga Rhinos vs Knights (2:30pm)
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images