The Highveld Lions, who started the defence of their Sunfoil first-class title with a gritty victory over the Dolphins, will feel confident against the Warriors at the Wanderers, starting Sunday.
They have been reinforced by the return of their inspirational captain Stephen Cook, who emerged with honour from the SA A team against the touring England side last week.
But win one, lose one: the Lions will be without Alviro Petersen, who has a knee problem. In return, they have on call Qaasim Adams, on loan from the Titans to cover for Petersen
Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana knows that early impetus in crucial: ‘I think this is where we won this trophy last year – in the December period,’ he said. ‘We beat the Cobras twice, and it was tough, but if you win those two games up front then it makes your job easier as the tournament goes on.’
The Warriors began their campaign with defeat at the Titans, but after being on the back foot for two days, they fought back by bowling out the Titans for 171 and and made a powerful statement in falling just short of a run chase.
Titans v Cape Cobras at Benoni
Qaasim Adams was released from the Titans because they have an embarrassment of riches. For their match against the struggling Cobras, they have South Africa A players Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris and Marchant de Lange all coming back into a winning side.
The Cobras have their own problems after off-spinner Sybrand Engelbrecht was suspended from bowling in domestic cricket because of a suspect action. He was reported by the match officials after the Ram Slam T20 against the Dolphins on 9 December.
But Omphile Ramela returns from SA A to take charge of his team for the first time, and he too can call on his A-team mates Justin Ontong, Dane Vilas and Robin Peterson. Rory Kleinveldt is also back from his latest injury to boost the fast bowling stocks.
The Cobras need to settle quickly. They had four Proteas in their side last weekend, yet collapsed to an innings defeat inside three days to the Knights.
Knights v Dolphins at Kimberley
Filled with confidence after their quick and emphatic victory over the Cobras, the Knights will want to consolidate on their home ground.
Rilee Rossouw and Reeza Hendricks are back in partnership after their services were not required at higher levels.
The Dolphins, too, are strengthened.
Imran Tahir missed the Dolphins’ defeat to the Lions due to suspension, while Andile Phehlukwayo was involved in the South Africa Invitational XI that took on England and Keshav Maharaj and Khaya Zondo were both with South Africa A.
The Dolphins, though, may be unsettled by the fact that in the lead-up to this game, their coach, Lance Klusener, was commandeered by the Proteas to help with the lower-order batting.