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Battle of the Titans

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There are a number of players very familiar with SuperSport Park, who in fact call it home. So for today you will have a derby, a Titans derby if you will

Farhaan Behardien of the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants during the 2019 Mzansi Super League game between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Jozi Stars at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Picture: Deryck Foster BackpagePix

The Tshwane Spartans vs the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants is not a derby in the traditional sense.

The teams are separated by nearly 1 130km, so calling tonight’s match in the Mzansi Super League a derby, doesn’t fit with what is classified as a sport’s derby.

However, there are a number of players very familiar with SuperSport Park, who in fact call it home. So for today you will have a derby, a Titans derby if you will.

The visiting Giants made a point in last year’s MSL draft of relying very strongly on players who’d been a part of the most successful domestic franchise in the last decade.

The Titans supplied them with Junior Dala, Chris Morris and Heino Kuhn. To that trio, this year they added Farhaan Behardien and Grant Thomson.

Chuck in Imran Tahir, who made his name in South African cricket while twirling away for the Titans for many summers, and it will make for a pretty intense midweek squabble in Centurion.

“Those are guys we’ve trained a lot with,” said Lungisani Ngidi. “If you paid attention at training, you know what they do.”

The Spartans, after a disappointing showing in the inaugural competition last year, decided in this year’s draft, to pick players who know SuperSport Park and its surrounds well. Morné Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe and Heinrich Klaasen were brought into a squad that has a strong Titans flavour. AB de Villiers, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn and Ngidi played in Centurion or are still doing so now. It should add to the intensity on the field.

“As players we should be OK. They know what type of bowler I am but I know what type of batsmen they are, so knowing each other’s strengths it will come down to who executes best on the day. It should be very interesting,” Ngidi added.

Besides the intimate knowledge of conditions, the Giants will arrive at SuperSport Park brimful of confidence following a comfortable win in their opening match against the Jozi Stars last Sunday.

It was a performance in which four of their Titans were dominant; Kuhn (47) and Behardien (48) shared a stand of 85 for the fifth wicket to help propel the Giants to 167/7 at St George’s Park, before Morris (1/20) and Dala (2/35) put paid to the Stars’ run chase.

The Spartans meanwhile, had to watch the rain fall in Durban on Saturday, where their opener against the Heat was washed out.

“Obviously (sharing the points) is not ideal, but it’s better than a loss and you at least come away with some points. It’s the first game at our home ground, which makes up a lot for (not playing the first game). It’s a very comfortable setting for us. It’s very exciting for us to play our first game here.”

Ngidi declared himself fit and raring to go – something that has not always been the case for him. It’s a reflection of his problems with fitness, that today will be his first MSL match. He missed the whole of last season’s tournament with a knee injury.

“I’m fine. It’s not a perfect science and as a young bowler I’m still trying to find the best way to make sure I’m 100 percent ready for every game. Over the years different trainers have had different opinions and so you try different things, but I’m trying to settle into a groove now and I feel it’s coming a lot better now than in the last few years,” he explained.

The match starts at 5.30pm.

Tshwane Spartans: AB de Villiers, Tom Curran, Lungi Ngidi, Theunis de Bruyn, Lutho Sipamla, Tony de Zorzi, Morne Morkel, Heinrich Klaasen (capt), Roelof van der Merwe, Pite van Biljon, Waqar Salamkheil, Dean Elgar, Wiaan Mulder, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Corbin Bosch

NELSON MADELA BAY GIANTS: Imran Tahir, Jason Roy, Chris Morris, Jon-Jon Smuts (capt), Junior Dala, Farhaan Behardien, Beuran Hendricks, Matthew Breetzke, Onke Nyaku, Ben Dunk, Heino Kuhn, Marco Marais, Grant Thomson, Akhona Mnyaka, Nandre Burger.