It’s a description, Warriors skipper Jon-Jon Smuts is clearly proud of. “It’s an Eastern Cape thing,” he said with a smile om Thursday. “We’ve always been referred to like that - scrappers - as the Warriors, even when Mark Boucher played there - that’s probably where he got it from. It’s a ‘never say die’ attitude that we adopt.”
That characteristic was on display in their stirring comeback in the play-off match on Monday night against the Knights, who had appeared in control of their chase and then fell well short as the Warriors turned up the pressure in the final 10 overs.
“We’ve always stood up in adversity, when we’ve looked like we were down and out in a competition, we’ve had to win four in a row to qualify for final or play-off, we’ve done that a few times, that’s where the term has come from,” said Smuts.
“I think it’s changing in the last few years, especially in white ball cricket we’ve been a lot more consistent, we’re making it to play-off games a lot more regularly, it obviously shows that we’re not just scrapping to win the last four games. But to be able to (perform well more consistently) and still have people wary of us (for our tenacity) is something we hold close to our hearts.”
By almost all measures the Titans should win on Friday night. They’ve beaten the Warriors comfortably in both league matches this season, they have more experience in their team and, as Boucher pointed out, plenty of firepower in their dressing room.
“On paper it looks like we are stronger,” said skipper Albie Morkel, “but you don’t play the game on paper.”
For all the talk about their tenacity, the Warriors are a team with some elegant and talented individuals. Colin Ingram is the star of their batting unit while Smuts has had an outstanding season with bat and ball. Both Smuts and Warriors coach Malibongwe Maketa said the team had learned from the T20 final they lost to the Titans at Centurion back in December, and the added confidence from their comeback on Monday has lifted spirits further still.
“The fact that we’ve been here before gives us a lot more calmness, we know what we are going to come across,” said Maketa.
Having been on this stage many times before, the Titans have attached particular importance to being patient. “There’s a lot of overs in 50-over cricket. Sometimes teams don’t play that way, they feel they are playing 30 overs and get ahead of themselves,” said Boucher.
* Tickets for the final can be purchased through ticketpros.co.za. Prices: R30 on the grass embankment, R50 per seat in the grandstand.