Multiply Titans coach Mark Boucher believes the two best teams will line up in the RAM SLAM T20 Challenge final and is expecting a tough battle against the Hollywoodbets Dolphins at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday.
The match will decide who takes the first Franchise prize on offer in 2017/18 with the star-studded hosts firm favourites for a third straight 20-over title.
They dominated the league phase of the competition, winning six out of their first eight games – with the other two being washouts – before Boucher opted to rotate his squad for the last two games, leading to successive losses. One of those was to the Dolphins, the only side they are yet to beat this year after their other meeting was washed out.
By that stage, however, they had already done what they needed to do, which was ensure they would top the log, which they did, thus earning the right to a home semi-final, where they thumped the Warriors, and final.
For the Dolphins, they have been making merry in the rain. Five of their regular season matches, four of which were at home, were abandoned due to weather. But two crucial wins at the back end of the campaign enabled them to end second on the standings.
And they got to the final virtue of another washout after their semi-final against the WSB Cape Cobras was abandoned in Durban on Thursday.
There has been criticism from some quarters as to how the Dolphins got there, but Boucher feels they fully deserve their place.
“The Dolphins, if you look at them on paper as a team, they are deserved finalists,” he said. “They’ve had a lot of rained out games and people look at those rained out games and question what if? But what if they won all those rained out games?
“They could have won a lot of those and we understand that. They are a dangerous team and we have the utmost respect for them.
“We understand they have a lot of match-winners and we will prepare for them accordingly, just as we did against the Warriors.
“Quite simply put, I think if you have a look at the tournament as a whole, the two best teams have qualified for the final. Dolphins and Titans are the two best teams and whoever wins on the night will be deserved winners.”
It has been an unusual competition with all the Standard Bank Proteas representing their franchises – a rare occasion this has happened – due to the national team not being in action at this time.
The Titans undoubtedly have the pick of the lot in the likes of AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris, to name a few.
The Dolphins have one of the best bowlers in the world in Imran Tahir, mixed with other Proteas like Keshav Maharaj and Andile Phehlukwayo.
Despite the indomitable look of the home side, visiting coach Grant Morgan is optimistic about their own prospects.
“No sports team can be invincible,” he added. “Over 10 games the stats and the pundits may say they would, but that’s over 10 games, in a one-off scenario that all changes.
“So we believe in our hearts that we can win, and why shouldn’t we? We have the personnel and we just want to go out there and take on this wonderful side, which is one of the best domestic sides in the world.”
The Titans squad is: Albie Morkel (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Malusi Siboto, Shaun von Berg, David Wiese.
The Dolphins squad is: Khaya Zondo (capt), Sarel Erwee, Morne van Wyk, Sibonelo Makhanya, Andile Phehlukwayo, Robert Frylinck, Keshav Maharaj, Prenelan Subrayen, Athi Maposa, Imran Tahir, Mthokozisi Shezi, Dane Vilas, Vaughn van Jaarsveld.