Fierce semi-final expected
Johannesburg - With the powerful incentive of a spot in the lucrative Champions League, both the Eagles and the Warriors will be desperate to draw first blood when the first of the Standard Bank Pro20 Series cricket semi-finals is played in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
The two domestic finalists in the crash-bang form of the game will qualify for the Champions League, to be played in India later in the year, a tournament which will pay rich dividends for those competing.
However, all four Pro20 semi-finalists -- the Dolphins host the Cape Cobras in the second semi in Durban on Friday -- will do well to keep their eyes on the ball, rather than worrying about what benefits may lie ahead.
The Warriors, in particular, will be keen to show their staying power, having contested four finals as an Eastern Cape franchise, but coming up short each time. This time they'll be highly motivated to go all the way.
They produced some excellent cricket in the league phase of the Pro20, with their strength lying in their attack.
Only once did they come up short, when they conceded 207 runs and lost by four runs to the Cobras, and they are fresh from an impressive victory over the Eagles at the same venue for Wednesday's game.
Skipper Davy Jacobs and coach Russell Domingo know, however, that they are up against one of the most successful franchises in South African cricket and what has gone on before will be history when they line up on Wednesday.
The Eagles may have lost their last two matches and only qualified ahead of the Titans by virtue of having two wins to the champions' one - they both ended on eight points - but they'll be looking to make amends in the semi-finals.
During the course of the Pro20 programme they lost a potential match-winner in Loots Bosman, but they have plenty of players capable of stepping up to the mark.
There’s a load of experience in skipper Boeta Dippenaar, Morne van Wyk and Ryan McLaren, and plenty of talented and effective back-up in Adrian McLaren, Dillon du Preez, Con de Lange, Dean Elgar, Ryan Bailey and Thandi Tshabalala, so there's no reason why the Eagles shouldn't be confident of turning their form around.
Happily, for both sides, Wednesday's losers will not be consigned to the scrapheap. The decision to hold best-of-three semi-finals will give them another bite at the cherry in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Should a third leg be necessary, it will be played in PE next Wednesday, February 18.
The squads are:
Robin Peterson, Zander de Bruyn, Colin Ingram, Davy Jacobs, Arno Jacobs, Justin Kreusch, Craig Thyssen, Johan Botha, Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Juan Theron, Ashwell Prince, Corbyn Dolley.
Boeta Dippenaar (captain), Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, Adrian Mclaren, Morne van Wyk, Ryan Mclaren, Ryan Bailey, CJ de Villiers, Con de Lange, Dillon du Preez, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Thandi Tshabalala, Rilee Rossouw.