The in-form Warriors will be looking to upset the odds and fight their way into the Ram Slam T20 final as they prepare to take on the Titans in their semifinal match at SuperSport Park in Centurion tomorrow night.
The Warriors will head into the match on a three-match winning streak and will take plenty of momentum into the massive encounter against a team that beat them comfortably twice during the group stages, and also in last year’s final.
“We are looking forward to it, it is probably, for us, the best thing that could have happened,” said Warriors coach Malibongwe Maketa.
“To be given the opportunity to play against a really great Titans team in a big-stakes semifinal in front of a packed stadium is going to be amazing.
“We believe that we are one of the best sides in this competition and we have proven it now, and it is a great opportunity for us to go out there and put our best foot forward.”
It has been an incredible comeback story for the Warriors, who after the first four games of the competition looked down and out, having lost three games while one was a washout, leaving them at the bottom of the log on just two points.
Three games later things had not improved much, with just one win and two losses seeing them still prop up the table on six points.
The team then went into overdrive in their past three matches, winning them all, to claw their way back up the log into fourth place to qualify for the knockouts.
“I am really, really happy for the guys and really proud of the way we fought after the difficult start to the season,” said Maketa.
“The self-belief we have gained from these last three games is just unbelievable.
“For me, what has been really humbling has been the manner we have gone about it; we have stayed calm under pressure and we have enjoyed the occasion of taking on the big teams and executing our skills when it has mattered, and for me that has been very positive for the team.”
In what was essentially a knockout match against the Cobras at Buffalo Park this past Sunday, the Warriors put in a superb performance to claim a comfortable 18-run win to force their way into the semis.
Captain Jon Jon Smuts, Colin Ingram and the in-form Christiaan Jonker contributed with the bat with scores of 48, 41 and 38 respectively to help the team reach 168/5 batting first.
Ingram (2/18) and Jonker (1/6) along with Andrew Birch (1/28) then all shone with the ball to get the Warriors comfortably over the line.
“We were lucky to bat first because we were able to assess the conditions and we saw that the slow bowlers were hard to get away and we then used that to our advantage in the Cobras innings,” explained Maketa.
These are Maketa’s final games with the Warriors, with him set to join up with the Proteas as coach Ottis Gibson’s assistant at the end of the Ram Slam, so he will be hoping that his players can give him a victorious send-off.
“With the quality of opposition that we have played, we knew from the start we would have to punch way above our weight and we have done it,” said Maketa. “So from that point of view to end up finishing off with a trophy would really be great, but achieving this first semifinal spot is something special.
“It has given me a really good test before I join up with the Proteas.
“With a team like ours where we play against Proteas players in every game, we always have to find ways of how to win and for that it has been a really rewarding experience for me.
“The fact that you are never comfortable and constantly have to think out the box has been a great blessing for me as a coach and I will look to take that into the Proteas set-up.”
The Warriors v Titans match gets under way at 6pm tomorrow.