I am slightly uncomfortable with the knockout stage of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge. If the Titans do get beaten, it will be a travesty.
They ended the league stage way ahead of the rest, nine points ahead of the Dolphins, and had secured a home semi-final with two matches in hand. Even with the losses against the Cobras (a close-run thing) and the Dolphins, they were by every measure the best team on the park throughout the series.
Boucher’s Boys won six of their first eight matches by overwhelming margins (8 wkts, 38 runs, 61 runs, 7 wkts, 56 runs, 5 wkts) and were foiled by rain in the other two on their way to topping the log.
Let’s be honest: the knockout phase is a sponsors’ plot to get more coverage with a whizz-bang finale. I will concede that it has its place.
But at the same time, it seems manifestly unfair if the Dolphins, the Cobras or the Warriors, who have only recently found their mojo after a desultory start should be crowned champions: the Titans won six matches; the Cobras five, the Warriors four. Dolphins won only three and got a home semi-final, they gained 10 points without bowling a ball.
Imagine the utter disappointment and sense of wrong if the Lions had been beaten in the 2015 Currie Cup rugby final after they had gone through the season unbeaten.
Try to imagine the uproar if Liverpool ended top of the English Premier League log (as they so nearly did in 2014), only to be told they had to play a semi-final against Man United and then meet the winner of the other semi-final between City and Chelsea.
The whole essence of sport is to measure yourself against your opponents in a consistent way; which is why home and away in a league system is about as good as it gets. The Super Rugby farce showed us how ridiculous some systems can get and there is always a debate in the Rugby World Cup when a team gets through having avoided one or more of the stronger teams due to an upset result.
There is even an argument in having a two league playoff, where the winner of, say, Super Rugby meets the European champions, so we can see if a northern team can beat a southern team. But in that situation, the winner of Super Rugby and winner of the European Championship have been suitably lauded and honoured for their achievement.
And the Titans should be too, whatever the outcome of the knockouts.