Albie Morkel, captain of the Durban Heat. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

DURBAN – Albie Morkel is in the slightly unusual position of being on the opposite side of a lot of things very familiar to him this week. The Tshwane Spartans are in town, and they bring with them a host of Titans players.

The Spartans are coached by Mark Boucher and Mandla Mashimbyi, and the rest of the back-room staff is also based out of Centurion. They are all faces that Morkel usually rises to go to work with but, over the next month, they are the opposition.

Morkel has fully entrenched himself in Durban over the last week and a half, as he and the Durban Heat have looked to become a close-knit unit, and then transfer that “gees” onto the field.

“That was my key point when I got here - to get the team to gel together properly. I figured we had two weeks to do it, but we have actually achieved it in a week. I honestly believe that everyone is getting on well, on the field, but even more so off the field.

“I think with the new guys coming in, that should help us even more so. They are great players on the field, but they will provide even more value off the field. That is where we sit and re-assess, and where guys learn about the game,” Morkel said of the other side of this competition.

Now, as the Heat lock horns with the Spartans, Morkel’s inside info on many of the Spartans may well come in handy for his Durban team.

“Of course! I am giving away all the secrets, in late-night chats with Morgs (Grant Morgan, Heat coach),” he joked.

The reality, of course, is that every player is a click away these days, and there is little in the way of actual secrets. There is, however, one player that Morkel and the rest of the Heat cannot ignore.

“I’ve played a lot of cricket with him and on the day if he’s on, there’s not much you can do. We’ve got a few plans that we’re going to try out, and if it doesn’t work out, then so be it,” Morkel said of the threat posed by AB de Villiers.

De Villiers has threatened to take both the games he has played in by the scruff of the neck, and then been dismissed. So the Heat know that he is in decent touch, and could explode at any minute.

“I think he will carry a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I’m not saying other guys in the team are not dangerous, but he is the one guy that is the stand-out in that team. We’d like to actually feed off that. We’d like to let him know that if he doesn’t score runs, his team might be under pressure,” Morkel said.

The Heat themselves have a few middle-order juggernauts to call upon, including David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, who landed on Monday from Australia. Zimbabwe’s Brandon Mavuta is also on his way.

Miller joined the team for a middle practice, getting a hit and a bit of a run. The spirit within the unit is certainly not in doubt, and there is an air of expectation ahead of the visit of one of the headline teams at the tournament.

There was an afternoon shower that disrupted the Spartans’ own practice, but there is hope that, much like Sunday, the bad stuff will hold off long enough for the second game in Durban to go off without too much of a problem.

The Spartans shook off their opening-day defeat to the Cape Town Blitz by outlasting the Paarl Rocks in a thriller on Sunday, so they are looking at building their own head of steam - ahead of a return home. They have been on a road trip for the first three matches, and two out of three victories will represent a successful start.

For the Heat, of course, there is an urgency to break their tournament duck, before they also hit the road. Though it is a tournament of just six franchises, they would be loathe to slip too far behind at this early stage.

Play at Kingsmead starts at 2pm, with coverage on SABC 3 and Radio 2000.


The Mercury

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