This week marks a new beginning, new normal, new season and a new sponsor for South African football following the sensational, if not dramatic ending to the previous season in which favorites Kaizer Chiefs choked in the final 20 minutes and watched in anguish as Mamelodi Sundowns overtook them at the last lap.
Following the withdrawal of Absa as headline sponsors of the Premiership, DStv has stepped in to bankroll the bludgeoning South African premier league and week number one gets under-way with six mouth-watering encounters spread across the country on Saturday and only two fixtures scheduled for Sunday.
Interestingly, the two teams that slugged it out for first and second position throughout last season – Chiefs and Sundowns – square off in the most anticipated tie at the FNB Stadium on Saturday to set the tone for what is expected to be yet another epic championship. But with Chiefs barred by FIFA from signing any players for two transfer periods and Sundowns unveiling close on 13 new additions, this encounter has the hallmarks of another great clash in spite of the fact that both teams would be led by new managers – Gavin Hunt – for Chiefs and the trio of Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela – mocked in some circles as Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo leading the Sundowns charge, indications are that the defending champions will prevail even though confidence appears to have eben seriously knocked by last weel’s loss at the hands of Bloemfontein Celtic.
Prediction: Kaizer Chiefs 1-2 Mamelodi Sundowns.
Although the Dr Rantai Petrus Molemela is no longer considered a fortress by visiting teams, Bloemfontein Celtic proved by eliminating Mamelodi Sundowns from the MTN 8 quarter-final away from home last week that they remain one of the most unpredictable, if not difficult sides to beat at any given time and under legendary John Maduka, they seem to have established an even much more difficult stance against opponents and almost impregnable in defence where they keep things very tight, as Golden Arrows are likely to find out on Saturday.
Predictions: Bloemfontein Celtic 2-0 Golden Arrows.
Baroka escape the drop to the lower tier of local football on the last day on the previous season following a draw that denied Kaizer Chiefs the title but saved their very lives as well and while they should be considered favorites in their clash against visiting Marzitburg United at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, the decision to suspend coach Dylan Kerr on charges of misconduct and allegedly disrespecting management, could come back to haunt them against the Team of Choice that was unfortunate to go down to Chiefs last week.
Predictions: Baroka 1-2 Maritzburg United.
The Citizens were the most awkward, if not difficult outfit during the bio-bubble to complete the previous season but the loss of talismanic Romeo Erasmus to Mamelodi Sundowns could have reduced their edge even though Bradley Ralane remains a constant threat to any opposition. Not much can be deduced about Chippa United under Lehlohonolo Seema and the jury is still out whether he would be allowed the freedom to impose his philosophy in the team in terms of their playing style by the trigger-happy chairman Chippa Mpengesi.
Predictions: Cape Town City 3-1 Chippa United.
Kaitano Tembo has a lot of work on his shoulders to fine tune his SuperSport United and particularly try to tighten their defence which seemed to crumble in the face of an onslaught from Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila towards the end of their cup game as they held on for dear life when the visitors pushed them hard from a 3-0 score to reduce the final score to 3-2 with Botswana international Tsotso Ngele smashing two brilliant goals past reliable Ronwen Willians to leave the usually solid Matsatsantsa shaken. Utility Aubrey Modiba has also joined rivals Mamelodi Sundowns and his absence could be felt, yet United should get the better of their visitors.
Predictions: SuperSport United 3-0 Black Leopards
Both Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu have undergone drastic changes during the off-season that they are almost unrecognizable. Businessman Sandile Zungu is the new owner of the tradition steeped club after purchasing its status from Dr Patrick Sokhela who had over the years struggled to keep the team as competitive as they used to be. And AmaZulu have raided the transfer market even bringing in Shaka Zulu (Siphelele Mthembu) and the man who scored the first 2010 FIFA World Cup goal – Siphiwe Tshabalala. Pirates on the other hand have also strengthened their squad and even skipper Happy Jele found himself relinquishing the armband to newcomer Thulani Hlatswayo last week.
Predictions: AmaZulu 1-2 Orlando Pirates.
Stellenbosch goes about their duties silently and without much funfair but there will be a lot of attention to their clash against newly promoted Swallows who rose from the dead phoenix like since astute David Mogashoa arrived and roped in Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to assist in the administration of the team that is guided by Brenton Trutter and boasts legends like Vuyo Mere, Ace Bhengu and Cheeseboy Mokoena. This is the right stage for them to prove against Stellies whether they have what it takes to compete at this level.
Predictions: Stellenbosch 1-1 Swallows FC
Tshakhuma showed heart and commendable bravery against SuperSport United during the MTN 8 last week, but their off-field shenanigans could derail their intentions and true potential when they come up against another new kid on the block TS Galaxy in Thohoyandou on Sunday. Granted the far North heat could play a decisive role in the outcome of this clash but Dan Malesela could just snatch this one against a side that has hired as much as fired players before the season has even started.
Predictions: Tshakhuma 0-1 TS Galaxy