Ti­tans ‘all set for bat­tle’

Squad is a strong one – Boucher


SEL­DOM has a spate of in­juries been wel­comed by a coach as has been the case for Mark Boucher at the Ti­tans ahead of the start of the RamSlam T20 Chal­lenge.

The ab­sence of Faf du Plessis, Morné Morkel and Chris Mor­ris has made some po­ten­tially dif­fi­cult se­lec­tion de­ci­sions, eas­ier. In fact, it may even prove help­ful for the Ti­tans as some of those in­jured play­ers will re­turn over the course of the tour­na­ment making the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons even stronger as the com­pe­ti­tion reaches its cli­max.

That’s a scary thought for their op­po­nents.

The Ti­tans have re­tained the ma­jor­ity of the side that won the com­pe­ti­tion last sea­son and with the Proteas avail­able, they’re also able to add AB de Vil­liers and Quin­ton de Kock. Mor­ris, who’s been train­ing with the side this week, is ex­pected to be ready to play in two weeks time, while Morkel will be back in the first week of De­cem­ber. Dale Steyn will play in the Ti­tans’ sec­ond match against the Knights in Kim­ber­ley on Wed­nes­day.

“With play­ers com­ing in through­out the tour­na­ment, the squad should re­main fresh which is a good thing,” said Boucher. “You have to try and man­age the process. We have enough play­ers to have a very good team on the field, no mat­ter what team rocks up.”

Hav­ing the Proteas is an ob­vi­ous boon for the tour­na­ment, with Cricket SA hop­ing it en­cour­ages more peo­ple to head for the sta­di­ums. For the coaches, par­tic­u­larly Boucher, the pres­ence of so many Proteas presents some chal­lenges.

“I al­ways say to the play­ers, ‘Well what would you do if you were the coach?’ and then you see them understand. They know the op­por­tu­ni­ties won’t be as much (as they’d like) but when they do get the op­por­tu­nity they’re ex­pected to re­ally bring good en­ergy into the side, which can only be a plus. So we’re ready.”

An­other ben­e­fit of hav­ing the likes of De Vil­liers, Steyn, Mor­ris and Morkel around is the ex­am­ple they have set for some of the younger do­mes­tic play­ers. Lungi Ngidi tweeted this week about a pun­ish­ing but re­ward­ing ses­sion of ‘death’ bowl­ing against De Vil­liers.

“The Proteas train at in­ter­na­tional in­ten­sity, which is good for our guys to see,” said Boucher. “All of our in­ter­na­tion­als who’ve come back have been su­perb in the last four days. Ev­ery time they play for us, they’ve been fan­tas­tic. This is com­ing back to their roots for them; it’s where it all be­gan, and they en­joy that.

“I en­cour­age guys to talk a lot; that’s how I learned, sit­ting hav­ing a beer with Peter Kirsten af­ter the game. That’s where my ca­reer speeded up. It helps in terms of learn­ing how to deal with pres­sure, not just on the field, but even stuff off it as well. The young­sters are lucky these guys are back, and they must seize the op­por­tu­nity to learn from them.”

The Ti­tans start the de­fence of their title with a derby against the Highveld Lions at Su­perS­port Park to­mor­row. They are favourites for that clash just as they are to win the whole tour­na­ment. It is a tag that Boucher rel­ishes his side hav­ing.

“If peo­ple are gun­ning for you it means you’re do­ing some­thing good. We understand that ev­ery side that comes up against us, re­ally ups their game. It’s nice to be favourites, re­gard­less of the com­pe­ti­tion, be­cause guys see you as the best in the coun­try.

“We have talked about the threats that could come into the side, like com­pla­cency. But the cul­ture here is very strong, and if there is com­pla­cency I back our play­ers, to chat to each other, tell each other they have to up their games,” Boucher ex­plained.

The Ti­tans’ match against the Lions to­mor­row will start at 4pm. It will be pre­ceded by the clash be­tween the Cape Co­bras and the KZN Dol­phins that starts at noon.

Mean­while, Boucher said he will guided by the med­i­cal ex­perts and Steyn him­self about how much game time he will have over the course of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Look, I’m not just go­ing to throw him to the wolves, I understand he’s come back from a long lay-off and we have to man­age him care­fully, that’s why he’s only playing on Wed­nes­day” said the Ti­tans coach.

“The best guy to ask is the bowler, and I have a nice re­la­tion­ship with Dale, and he’ll be hon­est with me when I ask how he’s feel­ing. We’ll take it from there. We are in a po­si­tion where we can play him in one game, give him a break, then play him again.”

“South Africa just want to see Dale back on the park. He might play one game, and feel great and be keen to play again, That’s great, and he’s def­i­nitely part of our se­lec­tion plans.

“But if he feels a bit tight, he can go back to re­hab and we’ll work him in slowly.”


South Africa’s Temba Bavuma bats dur­ing the ODI against Bangladesh at Buf­falo Park in East Lon­don last month.

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