EDDIE LEIE believes the Jozi Stars have the nucleus to make a big impression in the inaugural Mzansi Super League ahead of their opening game against the Nelson Mandela Giants in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The two teams will be looking to make a bright start to the T20 competition and lay down an early marker for themselves at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.
Standard Bank Proteas spinner Leie, whose side have marquee international signing Chris Gayle fit and available for their first game, believes the West Indian is one of several key players in their formidable squad.
“I'm really excited by this team,” he said. “We have good depth in our batting and we have bowlers that can win us games.
“And that’s what you need in T20 cricket, so we really have all the foundations here for success and I am looking forward to it.”
Apart from Gayle, the Stars also have Australian Dan Christian in their ranks, with their Protea power coming in the form of Reeza Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius and Kagiso Rabada, who are ruled out of the opening weekend due to national commitments.
Other South Africa players past and present in the Enoch Nkwe-coached side are captain Dane Vilas, Rassie van der Dussen, Duanne Olivier, Beuran Hendricks and Simon Harmer.
“In order to win any international league, it’s a given that you have to have very good local players in your team.” Leie explained. “Obviously you can only play three internationals, so you have to have good local players. I think that for the team that will win here, it will be the same.”
The 31-year-old is also impressed by the organisation of the MSL T20 thus far. “I’ve played in the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) and the standard was very high,” he added. “But this league is international standard, the way we travel, the way we are catered for, the way everything is run, it’s all top-class.
“We just want things to get started now. I can actually feel the buzz around coming in to the Wanderers, it’s the same as any international game or any CPL match I’ve participated it.”
The Giants boast an equally good team and coach Eric Simons says they are all raring to go. “After being involved in the preparations for a while now, you eventually do want the games to begin,” he said. “We’re all really excited and hopefully we can go well in that first game.”
The men from the Eastern Cape boast an equally formidable side, which boasts the likes of England internationals Jason Roy and Ben Duckett.
Their South Africa marquee man is Imran Tahir, with other Proteas past and present like skipper Jon-Jon Smuts, Christiaan Jonker, Heino Kuhn, Chris Morris, Ryan McLaren, Junior Dala and Aaron Phangiso also in the side.
Roy, Morris and Tahir will all miss the first game.
Unlike some of the other coaches, Simons does not feel winning the first game is absolutely essential.
“It’s always good to make a winning start, but we’ve seen teams come from behind, so one loss won’t put us out of the competition,” he added. “As long as we can see positives, you’re learning and moving forward. A positive start is what we want to see.”