DURBAN - The Dolphins are full of respect for the challenge that awaits them when they meet the Cobras at Kingsmead on Friday.
The men from Cape Town are almost unrecognisable from the team that the Dolphins turned over at the start of the competition.
That side was sluggish, and they were surprised by the Dolphins’ relentless running and charging with the bat.
Since then, however, the winds of change have swept through Newlands. There have been deep talks in the team sheds, lingering looks in the mirror and, finally, a transformation on the field, led by their senior players.
“They have a lot of experience, especially upfront. They have some real quality, and we have a lot of respect for them,” coach Grant Morgan said of the Cape outfit.
The Dolphins are well aware of what the likes of Hashim Amla and JP Duminy can do with the bat, as well as Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt with the ball. If they can nullify those threats, as they did at Centurion, they will go a long way towards doing the double on a major rival for the semi-finals.
What is more, the Dolphins have a man who knows the Cobras quite well. Former wicketkeeper/batsman Dane Vilas has fond memories of Cape Town, but his loyalties now lie with the Durban camp.
“They are obviously a good side with some strong Proteas in their line up as well as a number of players with a lot of experience,” Vilas said of his former teammates.
“We played really well against them last time and batted well and bowled well up-front, so we are pretty confident going into the match. Hopefully I can add a bit of insight into their thinking in the build-up and on the field.”
Vilas said that the Dolphins would again look to run the Cobras ragged in the field, as he and Khaya Zondo did in the first round.
While the Cobras are an explosive unit in the core skills, their lack of mobility around the park has been noted, and the Dolphins were the first to hone in on it.
“It is something that is part of the game now, and a lot of teams are looking at exploiting any weakness at this level.”
The Dolphins have watched on as the Cobras won three matches on the trot, while they sat on the sidelines and watched the rain fall all around them.
Despite that, Vilas said they were expecting another good crowd to pour into Kingsmead on Friday night, to match the last Friday fixture from a fortnight ago, when more than 6 000 people turned up for a non-televised match.
“All the effort that the marketing team has put in has translated into numbers in the stadium and it is what we want as cricketers, to play in front of big crowds.
“Unfortunately, the rain got in the way, but we could see that the fans were still having a great time despite the weather,” he lamented.
“We hope to see the same amount of people - if not more - at the ground!” Vilas said cheerfully.
The Dolphins also welcome back the powerful Vaughn van Jaarsveld to their ranks, and his showing at practice this week suggests he could pick up where he left off before his month-long layoff owing to a back injury.
There is an air of optimism around Kingsmead, and even the prospect of facing the most resurgent franchise doesn’t seem to have dampened that.
Play starts at 6pm, with coverage on SuperSport 2 from 5:45pm.