DURBAN – The Dolphins know that the star-studded Cape Cobras side that confronts them tomorrow will start as the favourites, but the men from Durban thrive on being the underdogs.
Having had a quiet fortnight after the Sunfoil Series, the Dolphins stepped up their preparations this week, with a pair of practice matches at Kingsmead on Wednesday, ahead of their RamSlam assault.
Though they will play their opening match on neutral ground – in the first of two matches at Centurion – skipper Khaya Zondo has already taken his men to Pretoria his term, coming back with a hard-fought draw.
“Both teams will know what to expect from Centurion, but it isn’t your home ground,” Zondo pointed out.
“This will be a slight disadvantage for both teams, so it will come down to the team that picks up the conditions the quickest. Whoever can adapt will have the advantage.”
Zondo’s men have suffered a blow with the withdrawal of Imran Tahir, as the Proteas ace undergoes assessment. It is still unclear what Tahir’s ailment is, but neither the Dolphins nor the Proteas are willing to risk the leg-spinner until he gets the all-clear.
Another key loss for the coastal lot is Vaughn van Jaarsveld, who is nursing a back injury. The powerful southpaw has been in ominous, if not quite ruthless touch this season, and racked up five consecutive half-centuries to start the season.
His ability to go through the gears is a key component of the Dolphins’ game plan, and he will be missed.
But, despite his and Tahir’s absence, Zondo still has plenty of firepower to call upon, as the Dolphins lock horns with a team that has the likes of Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Vernon Philander in their ranks.
“We know they have some strong players, but so have we so it will be an even contest. We are excited to get out there and see how it goes.”
Zondo has maintained this week that his men must cut out the mistakes that cost them so dearly in the latter stages of last year’s competition, and they may be better equipped to do just that this season.
At the top of the order, Sarel Erwee is enjoying a phenomenal season, with runs in every format, while Zondo himself has proved an adept finisher with his unorthodox manner at the crease, and the Cobras will do well to be wary of Dane Vilas, another who has found form.