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April 5, 2013
The peripheral prizes have all been handed out on South Africa's domestic cricket scene. Both Lions and Titans have confirmed their appearance in this year's Champions League T20, Lions' coach Geoffrey Toyana has been rewarded for an outstanding season by being named coach of the South African Emerging squad, Jean Symes, the Lions' second-in-command will lead that side and Titans have turned around a disastrous defence of their first-class title to stand in line for silverware in the shortest format. Now, the battle for that trophy is what it's all about.
Although the sideshows are more lucrative, especially the CLT20 which guarantees teams a participation fee eight times the amount they would get for winning the local tournament, no value can be put on bragging rights. Both franchises in Sunday's final are desperate for it which should set the scene for a fitting end to the summer.
Those who come down to the Wanderers on Sunday, those who watch from television sets across the country and for the first time in the United Kingdom and Ireland, can expect a clash between the colossal and the courageous.
Titans are the former. With national reinforcements like AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Farhaan Behardien, T20 heavyweights Albie Morkel, Alfonso Thomas and the newly acquired Herschelle Gibbs, it seems they could field an international quality side. De Villiers and Behardien showed their importance when they ushered a tricky chase in the play-off while Morkel and Thomas took eight wickets between them.
As a unit, they are used to winning. Since the franchise system was put in place nine seasons ago, they have won eight trophies and shared one. They produce players who step into the national set-up at will and are known as competitive, confident cricketers who were embarrassed by their last-place finish in the first-class competition which came after failing to win a single match.
They missed out on the one-day cup final and hovered near the bottom of the table in the T20s until they surged to the top and were pipped at the final post to force them into the play-off. This is their chance to keep their title average up where it has always been, one a summer, and stamp their authority on South African cricket again.
For Lions, there's a lot more they need to prove. Despite being the most consistent franchise in the country this season - second in the first-class competition, shared winners of the one-day cup and top of the T20 table - they have not won a trophy. In the last calendar year, they have had four opportunities to do so, beginning with the 2012 domestic T20, one which they lost to Titans. Few thought Lions would get as far as that final and when they did, that was considered enough. But they surpassed all expectations when they made the final of the CLT20 before crumbling to Sydney Sixers. Two washouts meant they were joint-winners of the 50-over competition and now, they are tired of settling for second-best.
"We need to get rid of just being happy to be in the final," Alviro Petersen, the Lions captain, said. "It's time to win trophies now." The Wanderers' cabinet has not had reason to be opened since the 2006-07 season when Lions last lifted a cup, also a T20 one.
They have been through periods of great strife since with boardroom squabbles leaving on-field activities near forgotten and the team languishing without the right personnel. A period of slow building has changed that. Lions have a potent pace attack and a batting line-up that blends attack with quiet accumulation perfectly.
Toyana, in his first season as a franchise coach, has turned Lions' fortunes around with his relaxed attitude. Matthew Maynard was credited with doing much of the same at Titans. Under him, Faf du Plessis has discovered how to hone the temperament he showed on Test debut and Marchant de Lange has made a full recovery and successful comeback from the stress fractures that robbed him of eight months of his career. The two coaches have already proved their value. Now it's up to their charges to show theirs when it matters most.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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