The Mzansi Super League 2018 is the newest version of South Africa’s domestic Twenty20 league, and a host of star names will play. Featuring six all-new city-based teams, the tournament gets underway on November 16 and lasts for exactly one month with the final on December 16.
The teams will have as their bases the country’s most iconic stadiums: Cape Town Blitz will play at Newlands; Jozi Stars at The New Wanderers, Johannesburg; Durban Heat will call Kingsmead home; Paarl Rocks will take on all-comers at Boland Park; Nelson Mandela Bay Giants will host their opponents at St George’s Oval, Port Elizabeth while Tshwane Spartans play at SuperSport Park, Centurion.
The six participating teams will play each other once at home and once away in a double round-robin format. The side that finishes on top of the standings will progress straight to the final where they will play the winner of an elimination play-off between the second and third-placed sides.
More than 200 international players expressed an interest in taking part ahead of the player draft in October, where the teams – each with one South African marquee player and one international marquee player – finally took shape. The winners will receive R7 million (3.6 Crores), the player of the tournament R100,000 (5 Lakhs) and each man of the match R15,000 (0.8 Lakhs).
At the time of writing, only three of the teams had confirmed their captains with Farhaan Behardien set to lead Cape Town, JJ Smuts leading Nelson Mandela Bay and Faf du Plessis taking the reins for Paarl. Almost all of South Africa’s biggest stars will be in action with Hashim Amla turning out for Durban, Kagiso Rabada taking the new ball for Jozi and AB de Villiers likely to lead Tshwane.
Unfortunately, JP Duminy was ruled out through injury, and Quinton de Kock has taken his place in the Blitz squad – hardly the worst replacement although the Cape Town side will miss the former’s considerable experience.
As well as the cream of South African talent several world-class international players will make this tournament one to watch. Some of the best West Indians will be there - Chris Gayle turns out for Jozi, Samuel Badree will be aiming to spin Cape Town to glory with Dwayne Bravo lending his all-round talents to Paarl.
Fresh from recent international action with England are Dawid Malan (Cape Town), Eoin Morgan (Tshwane), Ben Duckett and Jason Roy (both Nelson Mandela Bay) with several other nationalities also represented. Pakistan’s Asif Ali plays for Cape Town, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan for Durban, Australia’s Dan Christian for Jozi, Ireland’s Paul Stirling for Paarl, Sri Lanka’s Jeevan Mendis as well as Zimbabwe’s Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza for Tshwane.
With those line-ups in mind, it sets the scene for some matches which pit international team-mates against each other and revive some rivalries from the past. Who will prevail when Gayle’s Nelson Mandela Bay side comes up against Bravo’s Paarl team, on November 30, for example? Can de Villiers (Tshwane) hit Dale Steyn (Cape Town) around the park as he once did during the IPL? That contest could play out on the opening night.
With this being a brand-new tournament with six entirely new teams and players coming together for the first time, it will not make predicting winners and placing bets easy – at least not to start with. Given that some international stars may only be with their squads for a short time due to other commitments, their impact may prove minimal.
However, as many players will still play for their ‘local’ teams, recent form can give us some clues about who may go well and who may struggle. Having said that, few of the Titans side that won last year’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge are playing together. More helpful is the fact that many of the Durban Heat squad made the final as part of the Nashua Dolphins – and they will be stronger for the addition of Amla and Titans captain Albie Morkel.
With only one overseas player in their squad in Rashid Khan, if they gel quickly, they could be a good bet to reach the play-offs and take overall victory. It is always dangerous to discount a side with the power of Gayle at the top of the order so expect Jozi to make some headlines even if the rest of their squad looks a little light. Over the course of the tournament, opt instead for Tshwane, led by de Villiers, Morgan and Dean Elgar and Cape Town, with its excellent bowling outfit, to offer up stronger challenges.
Our tip for the sides making the play-offs are therefore Cape Town, Durban and Tshwane with Durban our fancy to win the tournament.
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