Leg three of the Africa T20 Cup kicks off this weekend with Pool B in Oudtshoorn on Friday.
North West and Zimbabwe have already booked their place in the semi-finals from the opening two weekends of action and one of hosts South Western Districts, defending champions Northerns, Northern Cape or African contenders Kenya will join them.
The hosts, runners-up in their pool last season, are being coached by Englishman Andy Moles and he is confident about their chances, particularly with the three ‘Danes’ in their squad.
‘It’s a very tough group,’ he says. ‘We have Kenya, who are an international side, and they’ll bring those qualities. Then you have Northerns, who won it last year, and then we have Northern Cape and I know they’re a very competitive side.
‘From my point of view, we’ve only recently got everyone together, so we’re still getting to know each other. We’re very fortunate to have Dane Vilas, Dane Piedt and Dane Paterson join us from the Cape Cobras, so they’ll add further quality to our squad.’
Moles, whose side face Northern Cape on Friday afternoon, is also pleased that cricket is coming to the Little Karoo region.
‘Everybody is very excited at the prospect of such high-class cricket being played here in Oudtshoorn,’ he added. ‘The ground is looking like a picture, it’s had a really big facelift and we’re looking forward to it.’
Northern Cape were one of the unlucky teams last season after winning two out of their three group games, but still finishing only third.
Their coach JP Trigaardt, who will turn to players like Patrick Kruger and Mbulelo Budaza, believes any of the four teams could progress from the pool.
‘It’s a challenging group, Northerns are the defending champions, but we’ll be there or there abouts,’ he said. ‘I don’t think anyone will run away with it, T20 cricket is much tighter and I’m confident it will be evenly contested.’
Northerns coach Mark Charlton insisted his team was not the favourites despite being defending champions.
‘There’s no favourites, every team is strong, every team is prepared and that’s what I’ve learnt about provincial cricket,’ he added. ‘Unlike a lot of the other teams, we’ve opted to go with a young squad, not many household names.
‘So we have youth and energy in our squad and we look forward to the challenge.’
Northerns play Kenya in the tournament opener on Friday morning.
There will be two matches each played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the start times set at 09h45 and 13h15. The weekend matches will be televised live on SuperSport.