The profile might be smaller but the hunger to win will still be there as the six franchises go after the last piece of silverware available this summer when the CSA T20 Challenge gets underway on Friday night with the defending champion Titans hosting the Warriors in Centurion.
The Warriors are especially eager to clinch their first outright title since 2009/10, after sharing the Momentum One-Day Cup title with the Dolphins last season after a rained out final and losing in the 50-over semi-final last month and in the previous 20-over semi-final as well, to the Titans at Centurion.
They suffered the same fate against the Titans in both white-ball finals in 2016/17.
“It’s been a tough three years against a really good Titans team but we have a very young squad. We’re just going to allow the guys to go out and express themselves, go out and have some fun because the format really allows individuals to put their hands up. There’s something very exciting happening in Eastern Cape cricket, hopefully we can showcase our skills and it’s about playing good cricket the whole competition,” Warriors captain Jon-Jon Smuts said.
The Titans may have won the Momentum One-Day Cup last week, but standards are so high at SuperSport Park that winning just one trophy in a season would probably be construed as disappointing, plus there are some fresh faces coming into the squad that will bring eagerness and energy.
“Not a lot changes from our one-day formula, hopefully the guys can carry their good form through. Our T20 squad is a bit younger, but it’s nice and fresh, with guys who have been doing well for winning Northerns and Easterns sides, so hopefully they will raise the energy,” Titans coach Mark Boucher said.
Even though Aiden Markram (county cricket) and Dale Steyn (who will be available for a couple of games in the middle of the tournament) will be absent on Friday after playing starring roles in the Momentum One-Day Cup triumph, and ace spinner Tabraiz Shamsi is resting a niggle, the Titans have more than enough quality with the likes of Tony de Zorzi, captain Farhaan Behardien, fit again Henry Davids, Theunis de Bryn, Shaun von Berg and Junior Dala in their squad.
Opening batsman De Zorzi is hungrier than most after a highly-promising 50-over campaign was interrupted by injury.
“The injury was a setback but I was happy to come back and add a few performances for the team. I want to play the whole T20 now and try and put my name out there, it’s a great platform to showcase what I can do, like I did with my century in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season. You always feel the need to prove yourself as a youngster and hopefully I can get more hundreds.
“The coach did mention a hangover from just winning a trophy, but we started our week with shuttles and he reminds us every day to keep our feet on the ground and to work hard. There is a lot of energy, we like the favourites tag and will just do our best to execute on the day. We will keep it simple, we know the basics win you games,” De Zorzi said.