South Africa’s greatest soap opera starts this Friday with the top two teams from last season getting episode one of the season out the way. Mamelodi Sundowns are looking for their fifth successive league title this term, while the likes of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will be looking to make up for their disappointing campaign last season. AmaZulu are no longer the dark horse of the league and will be expected to go very close once again under Benni McCarthy. Like every other season, the next 10 months should be an absolute joy ride, so without further ado, let’s get down to business.
Friday 20 August
Mamelodi Sundowns 6/10
South Africa’s fiercest teams from last season kick off the new campaign at Loftus Versfeld, where Mamelodi Sundowns get their title defence underway against the bold and mighty AmaZulu. Last season, Usuthu were the first team in the division to give Sundowns some sort of scare, losing 4-3 in a game that could have gone their way had it not been for a few cynical errors. The hosts looked sharp in front of goal in their MTN8 tie against Kaizer Chiefs, needing less than a few chances to find the back of the net. Peter Shalulile continued his blistering form and you can’t back against the Namibian netting in Sundowns’ league opener. My money is on the champions at 6/10.
Saturday 21 August
Golden Arrows 1/1
Maritzburg United 26/10
The first KZN derby of the season commences in KwaMashu where Golden Arrows host Maritzburg United at the Princess Magogo Stadium. Arrows won this fixture last season, however, the Durbanites, now coached by Lehlohonolo Seema, are slightly weaker in their squad, and, as mentioned, lost head coach Mandla Ncikazi to Orlando Pirates. Despite losing some of their star players, Maritzburg United managed to bulk up their squad with the new additions of Rowan Human from Israel, Brylon Petersen, Zukile Kewuti and Alfred Ndengane to name a few. I can’t separate these two sides, so I’ll be backing a stalemate here.
Orlando Pirates 9/20
Life without Josef Zinnbauer for Orlando Pirates begins when the Buccaneers host Stellenbosch at the Orlando Stadium this Saturday. The signs were always there once the German failed to kick on from winning the MTN8 last season, and when the club brought in Mandla Ncikazi, it became more and more evident that Zinnbauer’s departure was nigh. Stellies have lost Phathutshedzo Nange and Leletu Skelem, who were instrumental for the club last season, and despite the acquisition of Judas Moseamedi, I can’t see the Winelands-based side mounting any challenge in this tie. Pirates are a banker for me.
Sekhukhune United 17/10
Chippa United 16/10
Life in the top flight for Sekhukhune United starts against a team who arguably shouldn’t be in the DStv Premiership considering the madness Chippa United have produced in the past couple of years. The hosts have opted to go for experience in the hope of survival, signing the likes of Willard Katsande and Thabo Rakhale, while Edwin Gyimah, Talent Chawapiwa and Justice Chabalala all have PSL experience. Chippa United will be hoping Gavin Hunt can change the club’s fortunes around, however, I can’t see the Chilli Boys being any different to what they have been in previous seasons. I fancy a draw here.
Baroka FC 11/10
Marumo Gallants FC 5/2
In another lowly affair in the DStv Premiership, Baroka FC face Marumo Gallants in the Limpopo derby on Saturday evening. Both clubs haven’t done enough in the transfer market to suggest that they’ll be up for the fight this season, while Baroka will also be without Goodman Mosele, who recently departed to Orlando Pirates. Once again, I’m taking a draw here.
Cape Town City 11/10
SuperSport United 5/2
Erik Tinkler welcomes his former side, SuperSport United, to his new home at Cape Town City. The Citizens will be on a high after knocking AmaZulu out of the MTN8 through two superb goals from Mduduzi Mdantsane and Terrence Mashego. United have let go of Grant Kekana to crosstown rivals, Mamelodi Sundowns, while Teboho Mokoena, Sipho Mbule and even Ronwen Williams have been linked with a move away. As tricky as this one sounds, Cape Town City are tipped to edge it.
Sunday 22 August
Swallows FC 9/10
Royal AM 3/1
Swallows FC kicked off their season on a high, beating Orlando Pirates at the Orlando Stadium and knocking the Buccaneers out of the MTN8. The Dube Birds might find it difficult to plan for this encounter as we don’t know which Celtic or Royal AM will pitch on the day with all the uncertainties surrounding the status of the club. Whether it’s Bloemfontein Celtic or Royal AM that shows up, Swallows should win against any side that comes. On Monday, it was confirmed that Royal AM have bought the PSL status and Bloemfontein Celtic players were told to leave and go to Durban where, according to rumours, they will play a friendly match against Royal AM and the new owners will select players that impress to form part of the new Royal AM. We don’t know what will happen but as far as betting is concerned, I will put my money on Swallows to beat this disorganized team.
TS Galaxy 5/2
Kaizer Chiefs 11/10
Kaizer Chiefs start their season with an away match to TS Galaxy, just like how they ended the previous campaign. Amakhosi looked sharp against Mamelodi Sundowns last weekend, overturning a two-goal deficit and forcing the match to extra-time. New boys Cole Alexander, Phathutshedzo Nange, Kgaogelo Sekgota, and Sifiso Hlanti all started against the Brazilians. Keagan Dolly is expected to start on the bench again while there are big calls for Njabulo Ngcobo to replace either Eric Mathoho or Daniel Cardoso. This is a clear indication that Stuart Baxter will have a headache this season and that the Glamour Boys are ready to compete. Back Kaizer Chiefs to kick-off the season with a win.