Rivals look forward to Derby


Titans coach Mark Boucher is hoping the rain stays away after last week’s frustration as they prepare to meet the Highveld Lions in their Sunfoil Series derby in Benoni starting on Thursday.

The log leaders and defending champions could only watch as wet weather swept through Bloemfontein in the last round of games, washing out their first fixture of 2017 against the Knights.

The five points they gained was just about enough to keep them top of the table, less than a point ahead of the Dolphins, but the tightness of the competition overall has now intensified – just over 20 points separate top from bottom.

“A draw or a rained out game puts you on the back foot, no matter what,” Boucher said in reflection of their last result. “I don’t know if the rules are right for such games, but they were like that in the first place, so we’ve got to live with it and try and get some wins under our belts in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re still on top of the log, so I’m not panicking. Hopefully the weather will stay away and we can get a result in Benoni with a good few bonus points as well.”

Their opposition this week are neighbours the Lions, who lost to the last-placed Cape Cobras in their previous outing.

“The derby is always special and both teams will look forward to it,” Boucher added. “They will be determined to bounce back after the last game and our guys are just looking to get some cricket going.”

New Proteas Twenty20 captain Farhaan Behardien is back in the Titans squad and available for selection.

For the Lions, Wiaan Mulder is unavailable for the next month due to his national Under-19 commitments, with Nono Pongolo drafted into the squad in his place.

Their coach Geoffrey Toyana is remaining positive despite what happened last week. “Once again we were let down by our poor first innings batting,” he said. “It seems to be happening far too often. But we’ve chatted about it and we know where we went wrong.

“On the positive side was the massive fightback from the guys where we pushed the Cobras right to the end. There were two overs to go and that will give the guys a lot of confidence.”

Toyana was also expecting an open affair on the East Rand. “I think it’s the first time in South African cricket that with four games to go, all six franchises still have a chance for the title,” he explained.

“Every franchise, every game they play is a must win game and I expect to see good wickets prepared all around the country. All the teams will be playing to win and it’s fantastic for the game.”

Looking ahead to the derby, Boucher added: “I don’t need to motivate any of my players for a game like this. Titans v Lions is always a big game and we’ll be going out there to win.”