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Chase for title glory enters final straight

PSL
JOHANNESBURG - There can be no slip-ups now. Not when the target is so close.

That is likely to be the message Gavin Hunt passes on to his team as their maiden Absa Premiership title beckons.

Bidvest Wits, two points ahead of Mamelodi Sundowns with two matches to go, have the championship within their grasp. All they need do is match the results of Pitso Mosimane’s team and they’ll be the kings of South African football.

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Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt. Pictures: BackpagePix

Simple as it sounds though, the reality is something completely different. And no one knows better than Hunt how pear-shaped things can go at this time of the season.

When he won one of his three titles with SuperSport United, Hunt’s team dropped points in their final match only for results to go their way somewhere else.

He wouldn’t want to risk that, not with Sundowns so hot on their heels. And so it will be with the ruthlessness that has seen them win the MTN8 as well as usurp Mosimane’s Brazilians atop the Premiership table that the Clever Boys tackle their penultimate match when Polokwane City come to visit.

Sundowns know they face a potential banana-skin in the form of Maritzburg United who are looking for a top-eight finish. Anything less than victory for Sundowns could well see them kiss their title goodbye while Wits cannot allow their lead to slip, not with Kaizer Chiefs awaiting them in their final match.

Pictures: BackpagePix

Here we look at what the contenders are up against in their respective home (at Bidvest Stadium and Lucas Moripe Stadium) matches on Wednesday night.

What’s the history?

Wits v Polokwane

The Clever Boys will probably be rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of City’s visit. After all, since the Limpopo side were promoted to the elite league four seasons ago, Wits have generally enjoyed the upper-hand. 

Only once in their seven league encounters so far have the Joburg side suffered defeat to Rise and Shine, and that was a 2-0 defeat back in the 2014/15 season. 

Last time around at the Braamfontein arena, Hunt’s men ran riot when they hammered Polokwane 5-0 courtesy of a James Keene hat-trick and completed a double out in Polokwane with a 1-0 victory. 

City, though, are a different outfit this season and are looking good for a place in the top eight. They held Wits goalless in the first round having also done so in their maiden season when they visited. They will be happy with a stalemate, a result Wits would literally view as two points dropped rather than a point gained.

Sundowns v Maritzburg

The teams have met 22 times and Maritzburg have only beaten Sundowns four times. The Brazilians' faithful will not, however, have forgotten one of those defeats given its impact. Back in the 2010/11 season, the two sides met in the penultimate match of the season with Sundowns still in the hunt for the title. 

But Maritzburg were fighting for survival and they duly dispatched their more illustrious opposition courtesy of a 3-1 hammering to stay afloat while robbing Sundowns of the title. And then three seasons ago when Sundowns had already been crowned champions, Maritzburg came along and almost spoilt the party scoring first only for Alje Schut to sneak the equaliser at the death.

What’s the current form?

Wits v Polokwane

Don’t read too much into Wits’ loss at Free State Stars, that is always par for the course and Hunt would have budgeted on that happening even at the beginning of the season. Prior to that loss, the Clever Boys had beaten all of Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg. 

A good run of form they will be keen to rekindle. But Polokwane are having a season of their lives too and having beaten Kaizer Chiefs for the first time last weekend, will arrive in Braamfontein cock-a-hoop.

Sundowns v Maritzburg

Sundowns are limping about and seemingly lacking in confidence as the season peters to an end. That failure to beat Baroka FC, the rookies equalised via a penalty in the dying minutes, appears to have taken the steam out of the Brazilians who were later held goalless by Ethiopia’s St George in the opening match of their Champions League group campaign. 

Maritzburg might not have won in their last two matches, but they looked pretty decent in the 1-0 defeat by Wits and, having essentially ended Cape Town City’s title hopes, will fancy ending Sundowns’ reign as champions.

Predictions:

Wits v Polokwane

The Clever Boys to steal this one by the odd goal

Sundowns v Maritzburg

A comfortable victory for the Brazilians

The Star

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