Absa PSL be­gins

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

THE new Absa Pre­mier­ship sea­son kicked off yes­ter­day with some of the pre-sea­son favourites declar­ing them­selves ready for the 2016/17 chal­lenge.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Mamelodi Sun­downs will start the cam­paign as favourites af­ter their lop-sided ti­tle win last sea­son when they won by a record 14 points.

How­ever, Soweto gi­ants and the Brazil­ians’ big Gaut­eng ri­vals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pi­rates will be des­per­ate for an improvement on the past 12 months when they both failed to win sil­ver­ware.

The likes of Bid­Vest Wits and Su­perS­port United can­not be counted out and will also be keen to make an early im­pres­sion with pos­i­tive re­sults on match­day one.

With Sun­downs not in ac­tion this week — they have a Caf Cham­pi­ons League com­mit­ment — all eyes will be on the pre­tenders for the ti­tle.

The high­light of the fix­tures took place yes­ter­day when the Stu­dents en­ter­tained Amakhosi at Bid­Vest Sta­dium.

Chiefs goal­keeper Itume­leng Khune, whose side only came fifth last sea­son, be­lieves they are ready for the sea­son and has tar­geted noth­ing less than vic­tory.

“The mood in the team is full of high ex­pec­ta­tions,” he said. “We’re work­ing hard as a team and things are look­ing good for the sea­son.

“Every­one is raring to go, start­ing with Wits. We’re ready to do well this sea­son.”

Bid­vest Wits coach Gavin Hunt man­aged to lead his side to run­ners-up last year, and he knows the im­por­tance of hit­ting the ground run­ning. “We would like to have a good start,” he said. Pi­rates, mean­while, will be des­per­ate to im­prove on their seventh-placed po­si­tion­ing last year.

Their cap­tain is Oupa Many­isa and he in­sists they are not un­der pres­sure to de­liver, de­spite de­mands of their fans.

“No we’re not un­der pres­sure,” he says. “But the fact that we didn’t win any tro­phies last sea­son is on the back of our minds.

“We want to rem­edy that sce­nario this sea­son for the club and for our sup­port­ers.”

The Buc­ca­neers are at home to La­montville Golden Ar­rows at the Orlando Sta­dium to­day.

Else­where, Dan Male­sela has built an im­pres­sive unit at Chippa United. Many con­sider the Chilli Boys, who hosted Free State Stars at Nel­son Man­dela Bay Sta­dium yes­ter­day, as out­siders for the ti­tle and the coach him­self has not ruled out a chal­lenge.

“We’re ready to com­pete, and will chal­lenge for all tro­phies on of­fer this sea­son,” he says.

Other fix­tures yes­ter­day saw the new Cape Town City fran­chise play Polok­wane City at Cape Town Sta­dium, while reign­ing Na­tional First Di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons Baroka FC took their top-flight bow at home to Ajax Cape Town – a match to be played at Old Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium.

Apart from Pi­rates’ fix­ture to­day, there is also Plat­inum Stars, last sea­son’s sur­prise third-placed finishers, up against Su­perS­port at Royal Bafo­keng Sta­dium.

Dik­wena coach Cavin John­son also wants to start well.

“It’s im­por­tant that we start on a good note,” he added.

“In 2015/16 sea­son we started well. We started with a draw against Mamelodi Sun­downs and it was a big boost for the play­ers be­cause they played well against a so called big team. We need to start on a good foot­ing.”

The fi­nal fix­ture for mid­week sees Bloem­fontein Celtic host Mar­itzburg United at Dr. Molemela Sta­dium. Both teams will be des­per­ate to start well af­ter mas­sively dis­ap­point­ing past sea­sons.— Su­pers­port.

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