CAPE TOWN – Regardless of the sporting code there has always been something spicy about “the North v South” rivalry in South Africa.
It was at its peak during the 1980s when isolation played a pivotal part, particularly in rugby with clashes between Naas Botha’s Northern Transvaal team and Carel du Plessis’s Western Province’s side being the foremost fixture on the Currie Cup calendar.
This has continued post-unity in cricket with any match between the Cape Cobras and Titans – arguably the most successful franchises in the country – always possessing a bit of extra enmity.
Even lockdown seems to have done nothing to douse the fires, and in fact may have even raised the tension in the respective camps, with Titans coach Mandla Mashimbyi playing early mind games ahead of the much-anticipated season opener in 10 days’ time at Newlands.
“It is always a great game there. But it will almost be like we’re playing the Titans ‘B’ team. They have signed my players!” Mashimbyi said at Cricket SA’s season launch in Hammanskraal on Thursday.
Mashimbyi’s comments will certainly not go amiss down in Cape Town where Cobras coach Ashwell Prince was busy putting his charges through their paces in a two-day warm-up game in Paarl.
The Cobras have indeed bolstered their squad for the 2020-21 season with a few new signings from the Sky Blues camp, with promising opening batsman Tony de Zorzi the most notable. All-rounder Corbin Bosch, spinner Imraan Manack have also joined De Zorzi in Cape Town, while seamer Tshepo Moreki has returned to the Cobras after spending the last two seasons at SuperSport Park.
Although Mashimbyi was just engaging in some pre-match banter, there is little doubt that De Zorzi’s transfer still stings up in Centurion. The former SA under-19 captain not only struck a sublime double-century for the Titans against the Cobras at Newlands last season, but has stated that the primary reason for his move south was to be coached by former Proteas batsman Prince.
“I really wanted to work with Ashwell Prince,” De Zorzi said in a recent interview. “He’s played at the highest level and he knows what it takes to be successful at that level, especially as a batsman.
“He’s straightforward, and I like that. I’ve seen a lot of youngsters like Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne, Zubayr Hamza and Jason Smith excel under his coaching. The Cobras squad is a young one with a lot of exciting talent and I’d like to be part of that team culture.”
Equally, Prince will be quick to remind Mashimbyi that his Titans squad also has a distinctive Cobras flavour to it. Last season’s Titans Player of the Year Dayyaan Galiem is a former Rondebosch Boys’ High prodigy, while seamers Lizaad Williams and Thando Ntini were still an integral part of the Cobras squad just a few months ago.
After the long wait for the first ball to be bowled, cricket season cannot come soon enough.