Not so long ago, a fixture between Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits would not have been considered the biggest game in the Premier League.
But based on their current status, their matches are the most anticipated in the league. Having finished first and second, respectively, in last season’s Absa Premiership, it is not surprising that Sundowns and Wits will be contesting the MTN8 final on Saturday.
But it would be far-fetched to think Sundowns should go all the way to lifting the R8 million winner-takes-all tournament by virtue of having won the league title.
The Brazilians had to dig deep to go past a resilient Chippa United midweek, as they needed a solitary goal to advance to the final. The two top clubs meet in the Wafa Wafa final at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 5pm.
Based on how they started the season, it is difficult to bet on who will lift the trophy.
Both teams will see former players coming up against their erstwhile clubs for the first time since their departure.
When Sibusiso Vilakazi left Wits for Sundowns, one of his reasons was that he wanted to win trophies after spending seven seasons at the Students without any silverware.
On Saturday, two months after leaving Wits, Vilakazi will get his first opportunity to realise his dream. The attacking midfielder said that his hunger for silverware was what had convinced him to join the reigning Premiership champions.
“I’m here to win games and titles. With that comes a lot of hard work and working with my team-mates‚” he said at the time.
Vilakazi will be up against his former team-mates for the first time in the final.
On the other hand, Cuthbert Malajila and Mogakolodi Ngele’s reason for leaving the Brazilians for Wits was to help the Clever Boys win trophies.
They will also have a chance to get their maiden silverware in Wits colours.
Malajila seems to have settled at Wits, as he already had one goal to his name before last night’s game against Pirates.
Long before the season started, Wits were touted as the only outfit that could put the brakes on the runaway Sundowns train.
The Students have already shown that they mean business by beating two Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, in back-to-back matches.
Gavin Hunt has assembled a formidable team that should give Pitso Mosimane’s charges a run for their money.
Wits easily dispatched Cape Town City in the semifinals of this tournament with a 3-0 aggregate score, while Sundowns struggled to go past the Chilli Boys in two legs.
After juggling his troupe between the league, cup and CAF Champions League games, Mosimane can now afford to focus solely on the final.
But he should be worried about scoring goals because the bunch have struggled in front of goals recently after Colombian striker Leonardo Castro was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Sundowns have been potent in front of goals and had scored twice in three games before last night’s second leg of the CAF Champions League semifinal against the Zambian team Zesco United.
Ivorian striker Yannick Zakri is still trying to find his feet in the Premier Soccer League, and he has not yet scored a goal.
Meanwhile, Keagan Dolly looks a bit tired as he has been playing non-stop.
PSL footballer of the season, Khama Billiat, is the only one who has been looking lively and poses a real threat to the Students.
Interestingly, the two clubs will meet again in two weeks’ time in a league game after the international break.
Another former Sundowns player, Elias Pelembe, poses the biggest threat to Mosimane’s charges as he still has a bone to pick with his former club.
So far, the Mozambican, together with Gabadinho Mhango, has been a revelation in the Wits team.
New recruit Thabang Monare has also fitted in well in the Wits side, and he can deny Sundowns the trophy.
Billiat, with his pace and vision, is still the player to watch in the Sundowns side.
He makes things easy for himself with his positioning and anticipation, and Wits should be wary of him.
After winning two trophies last season, Mosimane will want to add this one to his name. He believes he has assembled an outfit that is capable of beating anyone in the league.
Hunt, on the other hand, is under pressure to deliver silverware to Wits, and this is the best chance to do that.