Absa Premiership

Clever Boys aim to outsmart South African title rivals

2019-01-03 13:34
Gavin Hunt
Gavin Hunt (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - It took Wits 96 years to become South African champions for the first time, and now they are on course to win a second title just two seasons later.

The Johannesburg outfit lead Orlando Pirates by three points as the second half of the season begins this weekend, but have no African commitments unlike three title rivals.

South African clubs have consistently struggled to excel simultaneously in local and international competitions and this could give Wits a crucial edge.

Known as the Clever Boys, the club play in a university campus with the 5,000-seat ground bordered by a planetarium and the Johannesburg-Pretoria highway.

Five issues in the richest national football league in Africa, with clubs contesting R30 million (about $2.1m) in prize money.

Title race

After many predictable title chases, the scene is set for an exciting second half of the season with Wits, Pirates and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns looking strongest.

Wits are built around a strong rearguard that includes national squad regulars in goalkeeper Darren Keet and defenders Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Sifiso Hlanti.

Pirates and Sundowns have to play six CAF Champions League group matches each by mid-March, including time-consuming trips to west and north Africa, and that could count against them.

Polokwane rise

The surprise side among the championship challengers is Polokwane City from the capital of the northern province, who lie fourth, seven points behind Wits.

They are a club without big-name players who attract modest crowds and usually battle against relegation. They finished 12th last season.

But a pre-season change of coaches, with Slovak Jozef Vukusic taking, over has dramatically improved a team built around 36-year-old playmaker Jabu Maluleke.

Maritzburg fall

Maritzburg United were the revelations of last season, finishing fourth in the Premiership and reaching the South African FA Cup final under 37-year-old coach Fadlu Davids.

But halfway through this season Untied are bottom of the table with only one victory, five goals and 11 points from 14 matches and Davids has been sacked.

Turkish-born replacement Muhsin Ertugral knows all about relegation battles having failed to save Ajax Cape Town from the drop last season.

Coaching shake-up

Ertugral was part of a coaching shake-up during the mid-season break affecting Maritzburg, seventh-place Bloemfontein Celtic and bottom-half Golden Arrows.

Arrows fired Clinton Larsen after only three wins in 15 matches and hired former South Africa captain and defender Steve Komphela from Celtic.

The loss of Komphela deepened the problems of Celtic, who have yet to find a replacement amid financial turmoil with the owner admitting he cannot afford to bankroll the club.

Goal drought

The glaring weakness in the Premiership is scoring.

Last season, the joint winners of the Golden Boot managed just 11 goals each from a 30-round championship.

This season, midfielder Mothobi Mvala, from mid-table Highlands Park, tops the goal charts with seven from 15 matches, using his height and physique to good effect in the air.

Another concern for national coach Stuart Baxter is that five of the top 10 scorers are foreign, coming from Zimbabwe (two), Argentina, Scotland and Zambia.

Read more on:    wits  |  psl  |  soccer

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Wednesday, 16 January 2019
Cape Town City v Free State Stars, Cape Town Stadium 19:30
AmaZulu v Kaizer Chiefs, King Zwelithini Stadium 19:30
Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United, Loftus Versfeld Stadium 19:30
Saturday, 19 January 2019
Chippa United v Maritzburg United, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 15:30
Black Leopards v Golden Arrows, Thohoyandou Stadium 20:15
Sunday, 20 January 2019
SuperSport United v Bloemfontein Celtic, Lucas Moripe Stadium 15:30
Polokwane City v Wits, Old Peter Mokaba Stadium 15:30
Logs
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

After slow starts to their respective 2018/19 Absa Premiership campaigns, who will finish the season ranked higher?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.