The muted confidence seeping through the Lions camp on the eve of their Standard Bank Pro20 semifinal with the Titans on Wednesday evening.
The muted confidence seeping through the Lions camp on the eve of their Standard Bank Pro20 semifinal with the Titans on Wednesday evening stems as much from self-belief as it does from a perceived vulnerability about their opponents.
The Titans, even without Albie Morkel - who will miss the match after tearing the ligaments in his right ankle last Sunday - are an impressively intimidating unit.
In 20-over cricket, which treats the bowlers as slaves and batsmen as their masters, the Titans are the competition's aristocracy up against its serfs - the Lions.
In Justin Kemp, Gerald Dros, Gulam Bodi and Alviro Petersen they have the country's strongest hitters. The Lions are lightweight by comparison.
But the team in yellow refuse to be discounted and are leaning heavily on the fact that their opponents on Wednesday have failed to scale the final hurdle recently, leaving their trophy cabinet bare for the last four seasons.
"They have had a reputation for falling in the latter stages of competitions," said Lions seamer David Terbrugge, adding it was an area his side were keen to exploit.
Indeed the Titans have come up short in the limited-overs competitions, for which they seem ideally suited, in the last couple of seasons. They reached the semifinal stage of 2004's Standard Bank Cup before bowing out to the Lions, and suffered a similar fate in the semis of the inaugural Pro20 competition. Then this season they lost to the Eagles in the final of Standard Bank Cup.
All of which makes the Lions a tad more optimistic than many believe they should be. In Terbrugge, the Lions also have a player capable of nullifying the sweet-swatting Titans. This season he has bowled with great accuracy and, dare one say, even a bit of fire.
"You take what you get from the game, you can't get too disappointed if it doesn't go your way. You have to realise that you are going to bump into a Loots Bosman or a Justin Kemp in full flow, and you really must control your emotions under those circumstances," says Terbrugge.
Terbrugge has picked up eight wickets in the competition, but, more importantly, he has been very economical, conceding a mere six runs an over in a tournament in which nine or 10 is the norm.
"This could potentially be our last game of the season and we really can't allow ourselves to be distracted by all the hype that goes with a big game," he says. "We have a game plan and we'll have to stick to it. We believe we will be successful."
Looking to counter them, the Titans too want to give coach Dave Nosworthy and retiring skipper Daryll Cullinan a hearty send-off. The Titans have dismissed last Friday's defeat at the hands of the Lions as an anomaly, with Alfonso Thomas saying playing just seven overs was even more of a lottery than 20 overs-a-side. "That was a joke, really. They should have just called it off," said Thomas.
Nevertheless, with the opportunity for a grand ending to what has been a disappointing season in the offing, Thomas is keen to renew his team's rivalry with their provincial neighbours, under slightly more "normal" circumstances.
"We really wanted to play them in the semis. In fact, when we realised they were our opponents, the guys started pumping each other up on Sunday," Thomas remarked.
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