The Lions are already handily placed in the competition, just four points behind the leaders, the Chevrolet Knights, but coach Geoff Toyana has been a shopper for batsmen this week with Alviro Petersen, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma all with the national side for the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion.
They will, however, welcome back Neil McKenzie and the experienced Jean Symes is also able to fill in, while the Lions will have a strong attack with Hardus Viljoen, Chris Morris and Lonwabo Tsotsobe joined by Kagsio Rabada, who was released by the national team while Bavuma inexplicably was not. Spinner Eddie Leie has also been in great form with the ball, so it all points to an intriguing contest against the powerhouse Cobras side, who have recalled Richard Levi to replace Stiaan van Zyl.
The Knights are hosting the Unlimited Titans in Bloemfontein and they too will want to take their T20 form, where they reached the final, into the four-day competition.
The Titans, by way of contrast, are looking to rebound from a disappointing T20 campaign, in which they finished last, and their well-balanced attack gives them hope.
David Wiese markets himself as a genuine all-rounder and his skills with the new ball, backed by the often scary pace of Marchant de Lange, the steadiness of Ethy Mbhalati and the exciting talent of Junior Dala, plus two spin options in Shaun von Berg and Roelof van der Merwe, means coach Rob Walter is comfortable that he has all the bases covered.
“There’s no substitute for pace and Junior, David, who also brings the quality of his skills, and Marchant all have that. Shaun von Berg also bowled beautifully in a couple of the T20 games,” Walter told The Citizen.
The Knights family was emotionally bruised by their disappointing defeat in the T20 final and coach Sarel Cilliers will also have to dig into his stores of replacement players as Rilee Rossouw, Dillon du Preez and Tumelo Bodibe are all unavailable due to injury.
The Sunfoil Dolphins will be out to arrest a mini-crisis after their poor run in the T20 Challenge as they host the Chevrolet Warriors in Pietermaritzburg.
It’s the Dolphins’ first game in the competition this season and they will want to make their mark. Coach Lance Klusener will be hoping David Miller hits top form again after scoring 364 runs in five innings last season, while Imran Tahir will be eager to rebound quickly from his dropping from the Test side.
The match is the first for the Warriors with new coach Malibongwe Maketa in charge, Piet Botha having resigned after a troubled season thus far.