Multiply Titans coach Mark Boucher and his Warriors counterpart, Malibongwe Maketa, both insist that the past means little ahead of their Ram Slam semifinal showdown at SuperSport Park in Centurion today.
Much has been made about the form of the two teams as well as their past 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.
East London-born Boucher 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 said. “So you can’t really win.
“I said this a long time ago, that once we had qualified for the semifinal 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 semifinal 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, on the other hand, were on the brink of elimination, prior to three successive victories that enabled them to squeeze into the playoffs. However, the Titans hold a head-to-head advantage, 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 added. “We do have a good record against them, but that means nothing, just like how we ended top means absolutely nothing.
“As I said, it’s a once-off game. Whoever wins goes through and whoever loses goes out. They have some players that have come into form, but we’ll be prepared for that and hopefully put on a good performance that gets us through.”
Maketa fully agreed with Boucher over the past, although he was just 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.”
The Warriors boss, whose side boast no current national players, was also not interested in how strong the Titans were – almost the entire squad is filled with Standard Bank Proteas players – or how they prepared for the game.
“Their approach and preparations make no difference to us,” he said. All we know is that it is a knockout game and we’re going to face their best team.”
The squads are
Titans: 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
Warriors: 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