Mountaineers will be looking to make it three first-class titles in a row as they begin their Logan Cup defence away to Rhinos at Kwekwe Sports Club, while Eagles will be hosting Tuskers at Harare Sports Club in the season-opening fixtures set for 3-6 December.
The four-day matches will be followed by the first round of the one-day competition, the Pro50 Championship, featuring the same pairings at the same venues on 8 December.
After retaining the Logan Cup and reaching the Pro50 Championship final last season, Mountaineers will begin the 2018-19 campaign as the favourites for both titles.
“We are obviously looking to defend our Logan Cup title and try and make it three out of three,” Mountaineers coach Shepherd Makunura said.
“Being the team to beat obviously comes with a bit of pressure but we are all relishing the challenge ahead and hopefully we can play some good cricket and defend our title and also hopefully win the Pro50 Championship.”
Mountaineers have retained all their players from last season, with Tinotenda Mawoyo still the captain of the side that boasts the likes of Zimbabwe skipper Hamilton Masakadza as well as national team players Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara and Wellington Masakadza.
“We have retained last season’s squad but there are a few guys that are keen on making a comeback into national sides such as Vusi Sibanda, Innocent Kaia and Kevin Kasuza. So we should expect a lot from these guys,” Makunura said.
Their credentials will however face a litmus test at the hands of their first-round opponents, Rhinos, who will be desperate to do justice to the talent at their disposal.
On paper, Rhinos are arguably the strongest franchise side, with national team players Brendan Taylor, Kyle Jarvis, Graeme Cremer, Peter Moor, Neville Madziva, Brandon Mavuta, Tendai Chisoro, Prince Masvaure and Tarisai Musakanda on their books.
Eagles, now coached by Stuart Matsikenyeri, will be eager to put down a marker as they seek to replicate the performances that saw them winning a coveted treble in the 2015-16 season.
With former Rising Stars players Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Richard Ngarava, Tony Munyonga, Rugare Magarira, Ryan Murray and Faraz Akram having joined them, Eagles will be strong contenders for all the domestic titles.
Apart from the starlets, the Harare-based side boast massive experience in the form of captain Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura and Regis Chakabva, as well as Luke Jongwe who has joined from Tuskers.
“I expect Eagles to make steps toward getting back to the top of domestic cricket where I feel we belong,” Matsikenyeri said.
“There is massive talent and a big team is not the easiest to manage but that’s a good problem to have.”
Tuskers also have a new coach, Douglas Hondo, but the Bulawayo-based franchise have not made much changes to their playing staff.
Craig Ervine, John Nyumbu, Chris Mpofu and Brian Chari still form the nucleus of the team.
“I would like to bring in a positive and progressive brand of cricket, where guys have clearly defined roles and must be effective in executing them,” Hondo said.