As the Proteas falter in the Test series in India, it’s feeder system – the four-day Franchise series – commenced this past week, with all three matches delivering outright results.
Here’s what we learned.
‘Jonty’ on another level as Potch pitch baffles
The Highveld Lions seems to be a hub for diminutive batsman who play like giants.
Temba Bavuma has already established himself as a franchise legend, but the talk of the town currently is 28-year-old Kagiso Rapulana.
The North West stalwart has become a key cog in the Lions’ batting order over the past season or two and showed immense skill to score an unbeaten 84 and 29 on a Senwes Park surface that saw 39 wickets fall in two days.
It took nine deliveries for the final scalp to be taken.
Bafflingly, Cricket South Africa has launched no investigation into what seems to be a clearly under-prepared pitch, which will annoy the Cobras no end.
Highveld Lions 215 (Kagiso Rapulana 84, Reeza Hendricks 30, George Linde 4/67, Matthew Kleinveldt 3/34) and 119 (Dwaine Pretorius 41, George Linde 7/64) beat Cape Cobras 129 (Jason Smith 68*, Bjorn Fortuin 4/34, Aaron Phangiso 4/43) and 194 (Kyle Verreynne 50, Malusi Siboto 5/15) by 11 runs.
Knights’ shrewd recruitment pays immediate dividends
The central franchise has in the past made it their mission to punch above their weight as they generally struggle to attract big domestic names.
So, in an almost typically Lions rugby move, they’ve decided to invest in three of the “biggest” youngsters in the country.
All three of Raynard van Tonder, Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen lined up against the Warriors in Kimberley and the trio all played significant roles in a comprehensive victory.
Proteas legend Allan Donald, back in his home province to mentor the Knights’ rookies, was so excited that he implored the franchise to do all it can to nurture them … after one game.
Knights 299 (Raynard van Tonder 52, Grant Mokoena 48, Pat Kruger 48, Jon-Jon Smuts 5/56) and 332/6 dec (Pite van Biljon 95, Keegan Petersen 84, Shaun von Berg 61*, Lutho Sipamla 3/70) beat Warriors 196 (Sine Qeshile 73, Shaun von Berg 4/78, Mbulelo Budaza 3/28) and 180 (Glenton Stuurman 45*, Gerald Coetzee 4/53) by 255 runs.
The coming of Tshepo Moreki?
Tshepo Moreki is already being classified as bit of a journeyman, particularly given that he’s now already turned out for three franchises.
However, the 26-year-old seamer might just have found his feet after leading the Titans to an unlikely win over the Dolphins.
In a game where batsman held sway, Moreki delivered a remarkable hat-trick to turn proceedings on its head.
The Titans only gave themselves 71 overs to force a win and 53 overs in, a draw looked highly likely.
Seven overs later, the match was over.
Moreki subsequently admitted he “only bowled one good delivery” in that hat-trick sequence, but he won’t mind.
This haul sets up his season perfectly.
Titans 441 (Farhaan Behardien 114, Neil Brand 106, Henry Davids 55) and 234/7 dec (Neil Brand 77, Dayaan Galiem 36*) beat Dolphins 385 (Grant Roelofsen 79, Marques Ackerman 69, Eathen Bosch 50, Marcello Piedt 4/61) and 161 (Jason Oakes 55, Tshepo Moreki 4/32) by 129 runs.
Next week’s fixtures: (Monday to Thursday) Warriors v Lions in East London, Knights v Dolphins in Bloemfontein, Titans v Cobras in Benoni.