LET THE FUN BEGIN
With the new league season just a week away, Timothy Molobi gives his thoughts on all the PSL clubs and predicts their final finish in the league
Football-starved fans in South Africa hold their breath in anticipation of the weekend when the Absa Premiership kicks off. Kaizer Chiefs begin their title defence under new coach Steve Komphela on Sunday. Mamelodi Sundowns, still bitter after losing the title to Chiefs, have already declared war. The question is whether Pitso Mosimane can wrestle the title back from Chiefs and lead Sundowns to the promised land.
And how will Chiefs do without last season’s captain, Tefu Mashamaite?
How will Orlando Pirates’ participation in the CAF Confederation Cup affect their league programme? Has Gordon Igesund done enough to challenge for the league?
Can Bidvest Wits go the extra mile and finish further than their third position of the previous two seasons? Gavin Hunt will be hoping to go one step further and win the title.
How will returnees Jomo Cosmos and Golden Arrows fare? Will Free State Stars and Polokwane City still fight to avoid relegation?
And who will be the first coaching casualty of the season?
These questions and more will be answered over the next 10 months. However, the season will not be without drama.
The usual suspects – Chiefs, Sundowns, Wits and SuperSport United – should be there at the end challenging for honours.
Defending champions Chiefs are still the team to beat – they lost only three league games last season. And despite winning the Nedbank Cup, Mosimane will still be under pressure to deliver more silverware.
But there will be more weight on Komphela to build from Stuart Baxter’s success.
Pirates will need to be exceptional to be classified as serious title contenders.
Juggling the MTN8, the CAF Confederation Cup and the league marathon could all be too taxing for the Buccaneers. It means playing every four days along with extensive travelling.
After a busy time on the transfer market, Igesund should fancy his chances of claiming another league title, this time with SuperSport.
They are bound to be in the top half again depending on how quickly their new signings settle in.
Chippa United boss Chippa Mpengesi will be aiming for a much-improved season after coming within a whisker of dropping back into the NFD.
But a lot will depend on how long Mpengesi keeps Roger Sikhakhane as head coach. The two have an on-and-off relationship.
Free State Stars and Platinum Stars, who diced with relegation last season, have been busy on the transfer market to avoid a repeat of the situation.
Mandla Ncikazi and Serame Letsoaka will have a baptism of fire in their first season as PSL coaches.
Ncikazi has the huge task of maintaining, or even surpassing, Komphela’s eighth-place finish with Maritzburg United. This was their first finish in the top eight.
Letsoaka has a tougher job leading newcomers Golden Arrows back into the top league. Surprisingly, Arrows have not been on the transfer market. If they think they can compete with the same NFD players, they will live to regret it.
Kosta Papić has to shut the back door if Polokwane City are to have an impact in the league next season. Last season they finished with the highest goals conceded – 60 – something he needs to address. Although they were able to score on the other end – 42 – it was at the back where they were left exposed.
Muhsin Ertuğral will be hoping his return to the league with Mpumalanga Black Aces yields positive results. He’ll have to work on his temper and get positive results if he wants to remain in the job. Jomo Sono knows the PSL through and through. He’ll be aware that a positive start will set the tone for the season. He surely doesn’t want to go back to “hell”, as he calls the NFD.