Ace spinner Dane Piedt has had an operation on the shoulder he injured in the Champions League in India and will be out of action for six weeks, while Justin Kemp (broken hand), Rory Kleinveldt (knee) and regular captain Justin Ontong (back) are all in a race against time to be fit. Key pace bowler Beuran Hendricks is also a long-term absentee due to a stress fracture in his back.
Veteran Robin Peterson will be leading the side in the absence of Ontong and he says they will have to plan carefully due to the disruption.
“We’re struggling with a few injuries and therefore how to balance the side, which is going to make it tough up front in the competition. We’ll maybe have to blood a few more youngsters, it’s a bit of a changing of the guard, but we need to be mindful that the main reason we’ve been more successful than the other franchises recently is probably because we’re more experienced than the rest. When you have six or seven senior players, it makes it easier to bring in a couple of youngsters,” Peterson said.
The Knights will come into the game bursting with confidence after winning their opening two Sunfoil Series games to top the log and they will be fielding an in-form pace bowling trio in Corne Dry, Quinton Friend and the seasoned Dillon du Preez.
Captain Werner Coetsee will also be crucial, however, with his off-spinners and the 31-year-old has a fine record in limited-overs cricket, with both bat and ball.
“Wickets are what stop momentum, we will be trying to get them any way we can. Our bowlers are all in exciting form and we have plans during the fielding restrictions that we hope will give us the edge,” Coetsee said.
The Knights batting line-up, having lost Morne van Wyk, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren and Johan van der Wath, does not have many familiar names, but Rudi Second and Gihahn Cloete already have centuries to their name this season.
“There’s been a lot of talk about us losing our senior players, but the first two games have shown the responsibility of the batsmen. It does a lot for your self-confidence to win those matches and now we want to start well in the one-day competition and play consistent, disciplined cricket,” Coetsee said.
The Chevrolet Warriors, meanwhile, will be doing battle with the bizhub Highveld Lions in Potchefstroom on Sunday and will probably have to do so without Proteas star Wayne Parnell, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury.
With Coetsee spinning the Lions to defeat at the same venue last weekend, the Warriors are likely to attack the hosts with spin.
“Spin is massively important for us, ever since we had Robin Peterson, Johan Botha and Nicky Boje in the team, it’s something we’ve developed. Jon-Jon Smuts did a huge job for us last season and Simon Harmer proves himself every season,” Warriors captain Colin Ingram said.
With one batsman’s spot probably still open in the World Cup squad, Ingram said he would love to go to cricket’s showpiece event again, having travelled with the Proteas to India and Bangladesh in 2011.
“The World Cup is always at the back of your mind, but you have to prove yourself as a player at franchise level, so it’s really important for me to focus on the Warriors. International cricket has pressure of its own and it grew my game. I would definitely love to go again,” Ingram said.