Nelson Mandela Bay Giants captain Jon-Jon Smuts is hoping his play-off chasing team can take pressure off themselves by winning their final regular season home game of the Mzansi Super League against the Tshwane Spartans at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Eastern Cape franchise are third on the table heading into the game, four points behind the Cape Town Blitz, who could stretch their lead when they play the Paarl Rocks late on Friday.
The Jozi Stars currently second, one point behind the Blitz following their victory over the Durban Heat this afternoon, with the Spartans and Paarl also still gunning for a top three spot.
The hosts will have one more match to play after this when they come up against the Rocks, but Smuts wants that game to be played without too much pressure. “Home games are always important and this next one is at home against the Tshwane Spartans, so that will be massive for us,” the skipper explained. “I said at the start of the competition, if you can do well at home, it will hold you well for the tournament.
“Hopefully we can get a win there and almost take off the pressure from the last game being a must-win one.
“Then we can go out, enjoy the last game and express ourselves. But all the teams will be thinking the same and there will be some upsets coming.”
The Giants did have a big disadvantage in midweek when their match against the struggling basement side Durban Heat was washed out at Kingsmead – meaning they had to share the four points with their opponents.
It means their prospects of ending on top of the table have now been hit. But Smuts says it was all about ending in the top three rather than worrying about whether you would be home or away in the play-offs.
The team that ends top will qualify automatically for the December 16 final, with second hosting third in a Qualifier two days’ before.
“The first thing is you want is to be in the top three to give yourself a chance,” Smuts said. “If you can get a home semi or home final that will be massive.
“But I think if you asked anyone at the start of the competition, they’ll all tell you top three will be great. I think if you give yourself a chance there, in knockout games if someone in your team comes off you can get over the line. That’s what you want.”
For the Spartans to sneak into the play-offs, they need to win all three of their remaining games, possibly even with a bonus point.
AB de Villiers concedes it will be tough, but says they have a score to settle against the Giants, who beat them by seven runs on the Duckworth/Lewis Method the last time they met.
The captain added: "We are up against one of the top sides in the tournament and we have some unfinished business with them after a close defeat last time.”