MSL down to busi­ness end

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Own Cor­re­spon­dent

The Mzansi Su­per League (MSL) en­ters the home stretch of the first phase of the reg­u­lar sea­son with five of the six teams vy­ing for the top three po­si­tions that are set to be de­cided in the next seven days.

Two of those, the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Gi­ants and Tsh­wane Spar­tans, clash in Port El­iz­a­beth to­day, with one of the two guar­an­teed to at least go joint top – weather per­mit­ting at St George’s Park.

The pair have 19 points apiece, which is four be­hind the Paarl Rocks, who have played a game more, and a win will put them in prime po­si­tion for an au­to­matic berth in the De­cem­ber 16 Fi­nal, the re­ward for the top team af­ter the 10 league-phase games.

Gi­ants cap­tain Jon-Jon Smuts (above), whose side have lost backto-back games for their first de­feats, ad­mits the stakes will be high in the East­ern Cape.

“I’ve said it be­fore the last five games that ev­ery game is a big game in this com­pe­ti­tion and the one against Tsh­wane will be no dif­fer­ent,” he said. “I think there are five teams still in the run­ning and that all five can still come first, so that shows how close the com­pe­ti­tion is this year.

“We treat ev­ery game as a must­win game. Just to keep try­ing and play­ing our best cricket and try­ing to get into that top three.”

The teams that end sec­ond and third will then con­test a Qual­i­fier, with the win­ner pro­gress­ing to the de­ci­sive game.

Fol­low­ing their twin losses, Smuts ac­knowl­edges that he is slightly con­cerned about their dip in form, es­pe­cially af­ter be­gin­ning the cam­paign with a bang.

“You never can’t be wor­ried when you don’t win,” he adds. “You al­ways won­der what you could have done bet­ter. I still don’t think we played our best cricket in those wins that we had.

“If you go back in the first game, we were 50 for four and we man­aged to win it. We played a pretty good game against Jozi Stars up at the Wan­der­ers, that was prob­a­bly one of our bet­ter games. Cape Town Blitz again they were 150 af­ter 15 overs and we man­aged to bring it back and get over the line.

“The place where we have been strug­gling a bit maybe has been in the top or­der, in the pow­er­play.”

Tsh­wane, mean­while, have been on a roll, although they were cut down to size for their first loss of the cam­paign when they went down to the Blitz in front of the big­gest crowd of the 2019 MSL sea­son in Cape Town on Sun­day.

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