JOHANNESBURG - Titans coach Mark Boucher and his Warriors counterpart, Malibongwe Maketa, both insist that the past means little ahead of their Ram Slam semi-final showdown at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.
Much has been made about the form of the two teams as well as their history in the run-up to the game.
The hosts were runaway winners of the league phase of the competition – winning six out of eight games with two washouts – before squad rotation led to successive defeats in their final two games.
Boucher has defended his team selection in the wake of those losses, saying they were a non-issue.
“It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation because if we won the last two games, people will be saying we’re due for a bad game now,” he explained. “So you can’t really win.
“I said this a long time ago, that once we had qualified for the semi-final and no one could catch us, we were going to make changes. That’s what we did and I would do it all over again if I had to.
“We’re now at the semi-final stage, where it’s a one-off game, I want to be in the best position to prepare for that, which I think I am in. Whatever happened in the pool stages are gone, now I’ll pick my best team for the game against the Warriors.”
The visitors, in contrast, were on the brink of elimination, prior to three successive victories that enabled them to squeeze into the playoffs.
However, the Titans hold a massive head-to-head advantage over them, winning 16 out of 25 meetings, including twin wins this season and victory in last season’s final.
“They’ve been playing final cricket for the last three games, so they’ll be used to playing cut-throat cricket,” Boucher adds. “We do have a good record against them, but that means nothing, just like how we ended top means absolutely nothing.
“They have some players that have come into form, but we’ll be prepared for that and hopefully put in a good performance that gets us through.”
Maketa was delighted that his side were again involved in the knockout stages of a major competition.
“We’re very pleased to be here after what was quite a tough start for us,” he said. “We had to change a few things around and it worked for us.
“Now we’re looking ahead to a semi, high on confidence, but also knowing that we have to start from scratch tomorrow. This is a one-off match and the past doesn’t matter.”
The Warriors boss, whose side do not have any current national players, was also not interested in how strong the Titans were – almost the entire squad is filled with Proteas players – or how they prepared for the game.
“Their approach and preparations make no difference to us,” he concluded. “All we know is that it is a knockout game and we’re going to face their best team.
“Luckily for us we’ve been going together now for four or five games and we do have that continuity and momentum behind us. So we’re quite confident.”
The Titans squad: Albie Morkel (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Malusi Siboto, Shaun von Berg.
The Warriors squad: Jon-Jon Smuts (capt), Andrew Birch, Gihahn Cloete, Colin Ingram, Christiaan Jonker, Sisanda Magala, Lesiba Ngoepe, Anrich Nortje, Jerry Nqolo, Ayabulela Gqamane, Colin Ackerman, Kelly Smuts, Yaseen Vallie, Basheer Walters, Wayne Parnell.
African News Agency (ANA)