DURBAN - The Dolphins couldn’t have asked for a tougher start to their 2017-18 campaign as they make the trek to Pretoria to face a star-studded Titans side in the opening round of the Sunfoil Series on Tuesday.
“We had a solid pre-season and the guys have all met the fitness requirements. I don’t think that we left any stone unturned through the winter,” coach Grant Morgan said before their final training session on Monday.
“I know that we wouldn’t want to start the season any other way, and to test ourselves against historically the strongest team in the competition is a great way to start the campaign.”
Certainly, the Titans present a formidable challenge, blessed with a team bristling with internationals past, current and certainly future. Titans coach Mark Boucher announced Aiden Markram as his franchise captain for the season, and he will lock horns with another young leader in Dolphins’ skipper Khaya Zondo.
That is just one of a number of personal battles that will be of interest at Centurion.
But, far from the individuals, it is the collective that will need to fire for the Dolphins, if they are to stave off a Pretoria juggernaut that has Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Quinton de Kock and a senior batsman by the name of Faf du Plessis to call upon.
On paper, then, the Titans hold most of the aces. But cricket matches are not played on paper, and Boucher is well aware of how the Dolphins always rise to the challenge against his charges.
To add further intrigue, new South African coach Ottis Gibson would have been unveiled in Sandton by the time play starts, and it is not stretching the imagination too far to say he may pop in at Centurion to assess his options ahead of the Bangladesh series.
“They always put on a good show against us. But I think if we can start well and put them under pressure on the first day, it will set us up for the rest of the match,” Boucher said.
His counterpart, Morgan, is comfortable with the team he has at his disposal, even if Dane Vilas is not yet done with his county duties.
“We have a good balance in the squad with a long batting line up and good selection of all-rounders to pick from,” Morgan added.
“With good weather forecast for the next four days we just need to assess the conditions and make sure that we get the best eleven players on the field.”
The Dolphins will lean heavily on Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj, but senior players like Robbie Frylinck, Morne van Wyk and Vaughn van Jaarsveld are also expected to step up, as they make the toughest of starts.