The RAM SLAM T20 Challenge will take centre stage for the next five weeks of the 2017/18 season with the competition kicking off on Friday when the Warriors welcome the VKB Knights to St George's Park in Port Elizabeth.
The competition, which will be played non-stop until the December 16 final, is significantly bolstered this year following the availability of all the Standard Bank Proteas, making for a hotly-contested affair.
Although the hosts do not have any current Proteas in their ranks, coach Malibongwe Maketa does not expect it to affect them.
“It will be different with all the Proteas playing and really add some extra spice to the tournament,” he said. “For us obviously there aren’t any Proteas, but we don’t see it as a disadvantage at all.
“We rather see it as a great opportunity for our guys to showcase their skill to become Proteas. Because I believe we have enough quality in our squad to go to the next level. If we have a good competition, we’ll definitely have guys knocking on that door.”
Last season they had a few men knocking at the door, but one man banged it down – captain Jon-Jon Smuts, who went on to win six T20 international caps for South Africa.
Maketa’s men were one of the stand-out limited-over teams last year, but ended up losing the 20-over and 50-over finals, both times to the Multiply Titans.
The Warriors coach is hoping to go one better this year.
“We are looking forward to white ball cricket,” he adds. “I mean last season was so close yet so far. To make two finals and come up with nothing was very disappointing. We’re in it to win it and that goes for every competition.
“This season we want to make sure we start from scratch. We are really proud of what we did last season and we’ll look to play the same way, throw the first punch and be aggressive.”
Knights coach Nicky Boje is also looking forward to it. His side struggled in the competition last year, ending as the wooden spoonist.
“It’s a little more relaxed and a little more fun, so we can’t wait to get going,” he said. “It’s always nicer to play in front of more fans and in a livelier atmosphere, so that will be good as well.
“Throw the Proteas in the mix and I think we can expect a really strong competition this year.”
Both sides are unbeaten this year and go into the competition having drawn all five of their Sunfoil Series game.
The Warriors squad is: Colin Ackermann, Andrew Birch, Gihahn Cloete, Ayabulela Gqamane, Simon Harmer, Colin Ingram, Christiaan Jonker, Sisanda Magala, Anrich Nortje, Jerry Nqolo, Solomzi Nqweni, Jon-Jon Smuts (capt), Kelly Smuts, Basheer Walters.
The Knights squad is: Marchant de Lange, Andries Gous, Eddie Leie, Patrick Kruger, Ryan McLaren, Theunis de Bruyn (capt), David Miller, Grant Mokoena, Tshepo Ntuli, Duanne Olivier, Keegan Petersen, Aubrey Swanepoel, Shadley van Schalkwyk.