All right, after a long wait the Absa Premiership is finally back, and hopefully it is going to be one of the best seasons we have ever seen. The standard in the league keeps rising every time, and all the teams really have come to the party as far as improving their performance is concerned. Naturally, there is always pressure on certain teams to perform better than others. All eyes will be on last year’s champions Mamelodi Sundowns to see if they can replicate their form. This team was almost unplayable at times, with the famous CBD of Castro-Billiat-Dolly in full swing.
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The not so good news for the Downs fans is that Billiat has long been courted by overseas clubs, and Al Ahly of Egypt are also showing interest. Just this week we heard that Greek side Olympiacos has been asking questions regarding Keagan Dolly’s availability. Should these deals happen, it would be a significant blow to Pitso Mosimane, despite him always maintaining he is ready for any eventuality. Billiat was partucularly a different class last season, and no wonder he won the player of the season accolade.
Personally I do not believe Sundowns can win the league again, even if those players stay. Not this season anyway. I foresee them falling prey to the same things Orlando Pirates did when competing in the CAF Champions League. They have literally not had any rest since the season ended, having been given a backdoor re-entry into the continental competition. They seem to be doing well there, so it looks like they will be going all the way to the final. They would have to have the best physiotherapists and medical team out there to successfully manage the workload they have. Don’t forget that even if they do not make it in this year’s Champions League, they will still be back in it in January as a present for winning the 2015/16 league title.
Photo credit: Nick Lourens
Another team that will be under obvious pressure is Kaizer Chiefs. They and Pirates both finished last season without a single trophy. That was a collector’s item because it was a first time statistic since the inception of the PSL. Steve Komphela will be fully aware that he would have received exemption from the Amakhosi faithful last season and given time to settle in. They will not be so kind this time around, and dare I say neither will the management. He has got to get it right this season. He has got to win at least one piece of silverware. Unfortunately for him, Chiefs are not the sort of club where you have the luxury of time.
Speaking of the Glamour Boys, their former coach Muhsin Ergtugral, who had two stints at the club, now has the task of getting Orlando Pirates back to the days of the double treble. I must admit that I was a bit surprised when Muhsin was appointed coach of the Buccaneers. It is no secret that he is a die-hard fan of Amakhosi. Besides, in all the years that he has been in South Africa, he has never won the league. No wonder the Pirates fans were not impressed. But I like his knowledge of the game. He is a true tactician, a thinker. They made some good signings in the off-season with the likes of Bernard Morrison and Abubbaker Mobara, so maybe this will be their season again.
Bidvest Wits always huff, and puff, but they never blow the house down. They are the true perennial underachievers. This is Gavin Hunt’s fourth straight season, and in all previous three they have been tipped to win something. They did not. Personally I am tired of holding my breath for the day they actually live up to the hype because they have one of the most talented squads in the country.
My pick for the league winners this season is SuperSport United. They did not start last season in the best of manners under Gordon Igesund, and brought in Stuart Baxter to save them in the middle of the season. He did a fantastic job to get them into the top eight at the end of the season. Now he has had a full pre-season with the team, and knowing him I can promise you Matsatsantsa are going to play the best football. A thing to behold. His relationship with Reneilwe ‘Yeye’ Letsholonyane will also benefit the team a lot.
Coaches Mosimane, Komphela, Ertugral, Hunt, and Baxter will obviously be the most watched this season, with the fans and sponsors alike interested in those teams the most. Whoever wins the league will have be extra special this season. Interestingly, the past four seasons have been shared between Chiefs and Sundowns, and each season the other beat the other’s record for points gained the previous season. So that is good competition. Let us hope we will go over the 80-point mark this time around. Let’s play.