The stage is set for the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, and first up are the Knights versus the Warriors at St George’s Park on Friday.
The Warriors finished runners-up in the previous campaign, and they will face the Knights in Port Elizabeth in the first encounter of the new campaign.
Although the hosts do not have any current Proteas in their ranks, coach Malibongwe Maketa does not expect it to affect them.
‘It will be different with all the Proteas playing and really add some extra spice to the tournament,’ he said. ‘For us obviously there aren’t any Proteas, but we don’t see it as a disadvantage at all.
‘We rather see it as a great opportunity for our guys to showcase their skill to become Proteas. Because I believe we have enough quality in our squad to go to the next level. If we have a good competition, we’ll definitely have guys knocking on that door.’
Maketa’s men were one of the stand-out limited-overs teams last year, but ended up losing the T20 and One-Day Cup final, both times to the Titans.
‘We are looking forward to white ball cricket,’ he adds. ‘I mean, last season was so close, yet so far. To make two finals and come up with nothing was very disappointing. We’re in it to win it, and that goes for every competition.
‘This season we want to make sure we start from scratch. We are really proud of what we did last season and we’ll look to play the same way, throw the first punch and be aggressive.’
Knights coach Nicky Boje is also looking forward to it, despite his side finishing last in the competition the previous season.
‘It’s a little more relaxed and a little more fun, so we can’t wait to get going,’ he said. ‘It’s always nicer to play in front of more fans and in a livelier atmosphere, so that will be good as well.
‘Throw the Proteas in the mix and I think we can expect a really strong competition this year.’
Both sides are unbeaten this year and go into the competition having drawn all five of their Sunfoil Series games.
The match begins at 18:00 pm.
The Warriors squad: Colin Ackermann, Andrew Birch, Gihahn Cloete, Ayabulela Gqamane, Simon Harmer, Colin Ingram, Christiaan Jonker, Sisanda Magala, Anrich Nortje, Jerry Nqolo, Solomzi Nqweni, Jon-Jon Smuts (capt), Kelly Smuts, Basheer Walters.
The Knights squad: Marchant de Lange, Andries Gous, Eddie Leie, Patrick Kruger, Ryan McLaren, Theunis de Bruyn (capt), David Miller, Grant Mokoena, Tshepo Ntuli, Duanne Olivier, Keegan Petersen, Aubrey Swanepoel, Shadley van Schalkwyk.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix