JOHANNESBURG, March 5 – With four other sides chasing the CSA 4-Day Series title, the DP World Lions are going to have to find different ways of winning as they travel to Paarl to take on the GBets Rocks from Sunday in the penultimate round of fixtures. 

The Lions are currently fifth in the standings, but such is the thrilling contest for the title that they are only 13.84 points behind leaders Western Province, who have played an extra game. The Dafabet Warriors and the HollywoodBets Dolphins are tied in second place, just 12.34 points ahead of the Lions. 

Considering the Lions claimed 24.46 points for their win in the previous round over Western Province, where they trailed by 100 runs on first innings, their deficit is easily made up by winning in Paarl. 

But Boland Park is not an easy place to win: the Rocks were unbeaten there last season but only won one of their four games, while this season there has been just one match played there, the Dafabet Warriors scoring 370 in the fourth innings to win. 

A generally flat, low and slow pitch and searing temperatures at this time of year are major obstacles to overcome. 

“We’re very excited about this game because it’s a very interesting four-day competition this season. Going into the last two games, there are five teams still in the running,” Lions coach Wandile Gwavu said. “So that means there is decent cricket being played and you have to give credit to the teams. The Lions team have all put a big effort in over the last two weeks and we have fielded a lot. But it has been proven in the past that you always spend quite a long time in the field in Paarl as well. But the guys are definitely up for it and we will be focusing on getting our basics right,” Gwavu said. 

In a spectacular new year of cricket with the delights of the new SA20 league and the Momentum Proteas with their phenomenal effort in making the final of the exhilarating ICC T20 Women’s World Cup hosted by South Africa, the Lions’ victory over Western Province at the DP World Wanderers Stadium was another standout feature of the season. 

The Lions clinched a thrilling 28-run win on the final afternoon, claiming the last seven Western Province wickets for just 36 runs. Bjorn Fortuin was the hero of the match with one of the greatest all-round performances in South African cricket history, scoring 123 not out and 65 in two rearguard innings, and then taking three for 63 and six for 69 with his left-arm spin. That win alone, which kept the Lions very much in the hunt for the title, will give them energy going to Paarl. 

“I’m out of words still,” Gwavu said two days after the end of the match. “The guys pulled something off which was amazing. What stood out for me was the belief, especially after tea on the final day. The guys still believed something could happen and they took that belief out on to the field. They showed real character. And Bjorn’s performance sure got the boys excited. The fact that no one has done what he did since 1911 shows how tough it is to score a century, a fifty and take nine wickets in the same match. 

“It was a special game for him, doing something not many cricketers have done. Every time we were under pressure, he came through for us, which says a lot about him. He was still very humble when he addressed the team afterwards, saying it was a team effort. Which it was because when we were in trouble in the first innings, the partnership with Malusi Siboto took us to a decent score and then Connor Esterhuizen played a magnificent knock with Bjorn in the second innings. Codi Yusuf bowled with good heat and then Sisanda Magala’s spell on the last afternoon was the stuff of champions.” 

“What more could a coach ask for?” Gwavu said.