Warriors gear up for encore
Warriors were the surprise package of the 2010 Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa, overpowering more fancied teams as they stomped to the final. This year, their captain Johan Botha and coach Piet Botha are out to show that the performances of 2010 weren't a fluke.
"Teams know what we are about now, how we play, so it's going to be tough," Johan Botha said in Bangalore, a day after the squad arrived in India. "If we can reach the final again it would be a great achievement for the team. It is going to be a bit tougher over here in India, and we would like to prove to people that last year was not just about a home-ground advantage."
The initial target for Warriors is reaching the semi-finals, something which Johan Botha felt could be achieved if they began the tournament confidently like they did last year, when they comfortably chased down 150-plus in their opening game. "The key to such a short and intense tournament is to really start well," Johan Botha said. "Friday night [September 23] is a really big game [against Royal Challengers Bangalore], you want to start with a win."
Piet Botha agreed, especially as Warriors' first two opponents this year both made the semi-finals in 2010. "We are playing South Australia and Bangalore first up, it's going to be massive for us to make sure we hit our straps straightaway," he said. "It's about getting through these first two games; we have prepared for them, we have some visual footage, we have watched a lot of RCB in the IPL. We expect a hard game."
Despite their exploits in the previous season, Warriors remain a low-profile unit. Their first media interaction in India was minutes after Royal Challengers Bangalore paraded some of the biggest crowd-pullers in the game, such as Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. And the first question for Johan Botha and Piet Botha? "Are you two related?"
One person who is not underestimating them is Bangalore's South African coach Ray Jennings. "Warriors have the South African fighting spirit," Jennings said. "The South African guys have had six months off, and they have worked hard for six to eight weeks. The challenge for me is to see if I can beat a South African side and to beat a good side like Warriors is going to be a challenge, and I am really looking forward to that."
Warriors had their first training session on September 19 evening, and have a practice match against a local side in Bangalore scheduled for September 20.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo