The One-Day Cup launches on Friday with a derby between the Titans and Lions to kick off proceedings at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
The hosts are the defending champions and have been South Africa’s standout white-ball team over the past five years and will be aiming for much of the same in 2020.
Only this time they have a new coach in Mandla Mashimbyi and, although they have been through changes to their technical team, they still continue to produce results – as was the case with previous mentor Mark Boucher.
However, the man that has stepped into replace the former Proteas wicketkeeper and new national team director doesn’t want his team to play with any fancy titles.
‘I don’t see us as defending champions, but rather as a team that wants to win the title this year,’ Mashimbyi said. ‘That is now the past and we need to start this year afresh.
‘Sometimes when you carry that title of defending champions there is a little bit of arrogance.
‘So, we’re trying to push that away this time and just focus on us playing every game on its merit. It’s a different challenge this year and we hope to go out there and hit the ground running from the first game on Friday.’
The nucleus of the Titans squad does remain from last year, bar a few additions like former Lions paceman Hardus Viljoen and all-rounder Dayyaan Galiem, both of whom have excelled in the red-ball format this season.
That competition is one the Lions lead with two rounds to play, but the men from Johannesburg have hit a dip in form so far this year. They have lost two out of three games, the last one a heavy defeat by the Titans, to see their lead drastically reduced at the summit.
‘I’m sure they’re looking forward to the change, but remember they are still first in the four-day comp,’ Mashimbyi adds. ‘But we’re not worried about them or anyone else. The biggest thing for us is to start well, to tick all those boxes and go through all the processes the way we want to.’
Meanwhile, Lions coach Wandile Gwavu concedes that the change in format could not have come at a better time for his charges.
‘I’ve said to the guys that the change of format has come at the right time for us because of the way things have gone this year,’ he explained. ‘We possibly played our worst game of the season against the Titans last week, so we’re looking forward to this change. We enjoyed the short break and now hope to bring some fresh and new energy to the 50-over competition.’
Gwavu is also hopeful his team can improve in one-day cricket this year.
‘The Lions haven’t done particularly well in one-day cricket over the past three to four seasons, so this is a great opportunity to change that, especially if you consider the fact that there is no domestic T20 competition this year,’ he concluded. ‘This is our last chance to go out there and give it our all. That will be our aim because we want to go as far as possible and challenge for the title.’
Photo: Gallo Images