The Premier Soccer League (PSL) title race gets underway this weekend, and Goal looks at whether or not the likes of SuperSport United, Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City can threaten the PSL’s traditional ‘big three’.
For many years, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns were the barometers for success in South African topflight football, but how times have changed. While the latter is still considered a dominant force particularly on the continent, the Soweto giants have retrogressed tremendously. Silverware has become as uncommon as a PSL striker with 20 goals to his name. Matsatsantsa and most recently the Students can wrestle the old powers that be in South African football.
However, ahead of the 2017/2018 campaign, there seems to be an air of optimism as the PSL’s big guns who have realised that the game waits for no one, and have made some quality additions as they look to reignite the flame. But despite their efforts the likes of the Citizens, Wits and SuperSport all look stronger than ever.
Out of all the potential champions, SuperSport have been the quietest in the transfer window. But did they need to do much with regards to improvements, considering their impressive showing which culminated in a Nedbank Cup trophy at the end of the season?
Nonetheless, SuperSport have brought in Siyabonga Nhlapo who comes in as a replacement for the departed Michael Boxall, and the talented Zimbabwean Prince Dube who further reinforces an already formidable attacking department.
Although, their new coach Eric Tinkler has not made too many changes at the club, they are still a force to be reckoned with, and they displayed their grit and determination during their successful MTN8 quarterfinal against the Amakhosi last weekend.
Nevertheless, next up for SuperSport is the ultimate test, a Tshwane Derby. Victory against Sundowns will certainly give them the right to believe that they can challenge for the title, but it should be noted that SuperSport have a slender squad and with Caf commitments still on the cards, fatigue could once again play a massive role. Also, if they are to compete with the big guns, they cannot afford to lose their talisman Jeremy Brockie, especially to a rival.
Eric Tinkler, the coach who may have better success at CT City and SSU than Pirates
The new kids on the block have taken the entire South African Football scene by storm and just when clubs thought they had them all figured out, Tinkler departed and Benni McCarthy was roped in. While the appointment of McCarthy will definitely have fans flocking to the Stadium in their numbers, what McCarthy can achieve is a mystery.
While City have made several quality additions, in particular the signings of Ayanda Patosi and Teko Modise, City’s future relies on the team’s ability to adapt to all situations and their spirit of togetherness. That was a notable feature under Tinkler and if McCarthy hopes to have the same joy, he will need his players to give their all for him.
But something that City has going for them is potential, an abundance of it indeed. If McCarthy is to replicate or even better the exploits of his predecessor, City have all the makings of a dominant force not only in South Africa but on the continent. But it should be mentioned that it doesn’t get any easier for the Mother City-based outfit this season as they have the added responsibility of African football in 2018 to contend with. Thus, the jury is still out on whether they can be considered as genuine title contenders.
Lastly, the Clever Boys go into yet another season as favourites but this time proudly occupying the champions’ banner as well. It will take a brave person to bet against Gavin Hunt’s men retaining their crown, especially when one looks at the type of players that have been brought into the club. The experience of Steven Pienaar and Daylon Claasen will be pivotal in their title run-in and could be the X-factor which separates them from the rest of the chasing pack.
Furthermore, after winning their maiden title, Wits are now on the verge of breaking into the PSL’s elite. Whilst their support base is still a work in process, their financial supremacy and success puts them among the league’s best, and undoubtedly the historic club are the biggest threat to the PSL’s big three.