Highveld Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana insists he will be proud of his players irrespective of what happens in their final Sunfoil Series match of the season against the Warriors starting in Port Elizabeth on Thursday. After nearly four months and nine rounds of action the title will be decided in the final set of games this weekend, with the defending champions knowing that only victory will do for them at St George’s Park. They will also need the log-leading Titans to lose to the Cape Cobras or have a bad draw in Paarl as they bid to overhaul the near 13-point lead.
Toyana says: ‘I’m very, very confident going into this week. We’re looking forward to it. We obviously have to win big and hope the Cobras can do us a favour. Let’s not forget that we will also have to win our game, which won’t be easy against a Warriors team that will be high on confidence after their first win last week. But I must say that whatever happens, will happen. We’ll accept it and move on.’ Last week the Lions came to within four wickets of beating their Jukskei rivals in a performance that left Toyana proud. He says: ‘I’m very proud of my guys for the way they performed. We had two very tough days in the field and they really gave their all. They left everything out there and I’m extremely proud of every single one of them. It was a great advert for four-day cricket and the way the season is ending also says positive things about South African cricket.’
Eddie Leie is again unfit for the Lions, while Temba Bavuma has a hand injury and will miss the trip to the Eastern Cape. Young North West batsman Kagiso Rapulana will debut for the visitors. The hosts, meanwhile, are still in celebratory mood having bagged their first win of the season against the Knights last week.
Their coach Malibongwe Maketa admitted that it had made a world of difference to his squad. The same players are again expected to feature this week. He says: ‘There’s a big difference after that win. The mood has obviously changed and not surprisingly either. We had a few new faces and they brought in a whole lot of new energy. There’s a few smiles about now and we’ll hope to build on that in the next game.’