Cape Town - Titans coach Mark Boucher admits he faces some tough selection decisions heading into their opening Sunfoil Series match against the Dolphins at SuperSport Park in Centurion starting on Tuesday.
The match marks the start of the official start of the 2017/18 franchise season for both sides.
And with all the Proteas Test players available for round one, selection will be key for some of the teams, particularly a side like the Titans, who have a host of them available.
National captain Faf du Plessis heads the list, while the squad also boasts the likes of Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel and Tabraiz Shamsi.
Added to the intrigue is the fact that the hosts have named Aiden Markram as captain of their four-day side.
“It’s going to be a long season with the T20 Global League pushed into the schedule as well, so it will be interesting,” Boucher said. “We got a nice squad with all the Proteas around.
“But we also have a few injuries as well, so selection will be interesting.
“A lot of our boys didn’t even have an off-season with the amount of cricket they’ve being playing, so it’s going to be a bit of a mix and match game for us in terms of selection going into the first few games.”
Keshav Maharaj is the main national player available for the Dolphins, against whom Boucher expects a tough game. “They always put up a good show against us,” he added. “But I think if we can start well and put them under pressure on the first day, it will set us up well for the rest of the match.”
Dolphins coach Grant Morgan is also relishing a return to action. “We had a solid pre-season and the guys have all met the fitness requirements and I don’t think that we left any stone unturned through the winter,” he explained.
“I know that we wouldn’t want to start the season any other way, and to test ourselves against who has been historically the strongest team in the competition is a great way to start the campaign.”
Maharaj apart, the Dolphins squad is made up of the usual suspects. Khaya Zondo, who led them so admirably for a large part of last season, is again at the helm, with Andile Phehlukwayo and Morne van Wyk amongst those in the mix.
“We have a good balance in the squad with a long batting line-up and a good selection of all-rounders to pick from,” Morgan added.
“We might only have one full-time Protea in Keshav in the squad and Andile on the fringes, they are both looking forward to representing the Dolphins and hoping to impress the new national coach and the selectors.”
Titans squad: Aiden Markram (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Tony de Zorzi, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Alfred Mothoa, Rowan Richards, Tabraiz Shamsi, Malusi Siboto, Jonathan Vandiar.
Dolphins squad: Cody Chetty, Rabian Engelbrecht, Sarel Erwee, Rob Frylinck, Keshav Maharaj, Sibonelo Makhanya, Khaya Zondo (capt), Senuran Muthusamy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Calvin Savage, Mthokozisi Shezi, Prenelan Subrayen, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Morné van Wyk.