PSL: Soweto to rule again?

2013-08-01 07:43
Happy Jele of Orlando Pirates battles with Bernard Parker of Kaizer Chiefs (Backpage)
Cape Town - Most of the money, so much of the glamour, an unceasing ability to draw crowds partial to them even when 'away' ... it’s still hard to look too far beyond the Big Two when you examine another Absa Premiership season, isn’t it?

You won’t hear too many howls of protest from fans of Soweto juggernauts Kaizer Chiefs, the defending champions, or fierce rivals Orlando Pirates (who ended 2012/13 third, five points off the pace) for that suggestion.

The new campaign kicks off under lights on Friday with a lone, pretty enticing match at Nelspruit’s charming Mbombela Stadium featuring Chiefs’ visit (20:00) to promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces – a side former Bafana coach Clive Barker has already gone on record as saying could be the surprise packages.

If you were a non-South African examining the PSL’s recent history, you might be tempted to suspect that the domestic scene is a little too dominated by the Chiefs/Pirates equation ... almost in the same way that Scottish football was absurdly bossed (though admittedly for a much longer period) by Glasgow pair Celtic and Rangers, until the latter’s dramatic insolvency woe in 2012 and banishment to a much lower division to try to claw back patiently from there.

After all, ahead of Chiefs’ title success last season, Pirates had landed the silverware for the two campaigns preceding it.

It is not out of the question that we are headed for a similar sort of hogging of the Premiership spoils to the era between 2000/01 and 2004/05, when each of the iconic sides bagged the laurels twice and the only interruption (2001/02) was when Santos, masterminded by now national coach Gordon Igesund, earned a surprise maiden title – they have more recently drifted out of the top flight.

But any suggestion of an unhealthy Chiefs-Pirates monopoly on the domestic scene is slightly deceptive, and for one particularly good reason: last season’s amazing showing by the relatively unheralded Platinum Stars.

The side from Rustenburg soared handsomely into the runners-up spot, a mere one point behind Chiefs and actually boasting more victories (17) than anyone else; the Amakhosi secured only 15 from their 30 matches, but the big difference was their losing only three times to Stars’ eight.

Can Stars do the unthinkable and go all the way to the title themselves in 2013/14?

Thus far, perhaps not surprisingly, there aren’t too many pundits backing them to get even close to their achievement last time out, the implication being that they were one-season wonders.

Two tricky opening fixtures for them, first at home to Wits – positive things are expected of the Clever Boys, who finished a respectable fourth and now have three-time title-winning Gavin Hunt pulling their off-field strings – and then away to smarting 2012/13 underachievers Mamelodi Sundowns, should provide clues as to their sustainability or otherwise.

Pirates, meanwhile, enter the league fray later than any other team; they close off the first-round programme only next Wednesday, at home to AmaZulu.

But if any side is to possibly build an early head of steam, it could be the afore-mentioned Wits, provided they can earn a decent enough result at the Royal Bafokeng on Sunday.

For they then head into a run of three home matches at Bidvest Stadium, and all against teams who finished very much in the lower reaches of the table last season.

Champions Chiefs, for their part, will do seriously well to emulate or better their first performance of the last campaign, when they tackle Aces: the 6-0 dismantling of AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium (including a near-fairytale four strikes from Bernard Parker) still lingers in many memory banks.

Even if they open their title defence rather more sedately this time, smart money will stay on them to repeat their title success – a situation only enhanced by the return to the black and gold shirt of Zimbabwean goal-poacher Knowledge Musona, still just 23 and possibly coming healthily into his prime following invaluable experiences in the Bundesliga. 

First five fixtures for last season’s top six finishers, with the corresponding 2012/13 result:

1 Kaizer Chiefs

Black Aces (a), not applicable
 Moroka Swallows (h), Chiefs won 3-2
SuperSport United (a), Chiefs won 2-1
Maritzburg United (h), drew 1-1
Bloemfontein Celtic (a), Chiefs won 3-0

2 Platinum Stars

Wits (h), Stars won 2-1
Mamelodi Sundowns (a), Stars won 1-0
Polokwane City (h), not applicable
Free State Stars (a), Stars won 1-0
University of Pretoria (h), drew 2-2
3 Orlando Pirates
AmaZulu (h), drew 0-0
Ajax Cape Town (a), drew 2-2
Mamelodi Sundowns (a), Pirates won 3-1
Polokwane City (h), not applicable
Free State Stars (a), drew 1-1

4 Wits

Platinum Stars (a), Stars won 2-1
Golden Arrows (h), Wits won 1-0
Ajax Cape Town (h), drew 0-0
AmaZulu (h), Wits won 3-1
Mamelodi Sundowns (a), drew 2-2

5 Bloemfontein Celtic
Mamelodi Sundowns (h), Sundowns won 1-0
Polokwane City (a), not applicable
Free State Stars (h), drew 2-2
University of Pretoria (a), drew 1-1
Kaizer Chiefs (h), Chiefs won 3-0
6 SuperSport United
Free State Stars (h), drew 0-0
University of Pretoria (a), drew 0-0
Kaizer Chiefs (h), Chiefs won 2-1
Black Aces (a), not applicable
Moroka Swallows (h), drew 0-0

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    kaizer chiefs  |  psl  |  cape town  |  soccer

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