Nelson Mandela Bay Giants ready to face any and all challengers
IT seems the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants routinely face a team looking to topple them from their perch on top of the Mzansi Super League ladder.
Last week it was the Cape Town Blitz, with the Giants edging out Ashwell Prince’s side in a thrilling tie at St George’s Park. This week it’s the Blitz’ neighbours, the Paarl Rocks that head to Port Elizabeth with eyes on pole position when the two sides clash this evening.
The Rocks are filled with confidence too, having defeated the Jozi Stars and Blitz in their last two games and they are eager to continue the momentum on the road. Equally, though, the Giants have taken points off the Blitz and Durban Heat, and are starting to relish the pressure of being on top due to everyone in the team understanding their respective roles.
“Yes, it can be difficult to adapt as you play back-to-back matches against different teams, but the one thing that makes it easier is role definition,” Giants batsman Marco Marais said.
“This is the tournament where you really want to do well and show the world what you can do. Our roles were defined before the tournament started and each player knows what he has to do. When we practice, we practice for situations you would be faced with come game day.”
Marais is one of the young players at the Giants that have relished the opportunity to showcase their skills in such a high-profile tournament. Previously, only known down in East London as a bit of a basher upfront, the hard-hitting right-hander has developed into a “finisher” of note.
Having replaced Christiaan Jonker, who only recently played a couple of T20s for the Proteas, Marais took on the responsibility of taking the Giants home against the Blitz when he smashed 40 not out of just 20 balls (4x4s, 2x6s).
Marais’ importance to the Giants’ cause has escalated even further due to the tournament-ending injury to Farhaan Behardien.
The loss of the latter would have been considered a major blow due to Behardien being undisputedly the best ‘finisher’ in domestic T20 cricket for the past decade.
However, Marais claims that the support he gets from the senior players, particularly still Behardien, is what helps him get through those moments out in the middle.
“Even though Farhaan [Behardien] got injured he still sends us messages. It just helps to be able to fall back on their knowledge – batting with them and spending time with them off the field,” he said.
The Giants have replaced Behardien in their squad with Netherlands and former Western Province all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate for the remainder of the tournament.