Mamelodi Sundowns currently lead the log standings. Photo: BackpagePix
When Vincent Pule scored in the 90th minute of the Telkom Knockout final to secure the cup for Bidvest Wits, Gavin Hunt must have breathed a sigh of relief.

Things were not going swimmingly. In the Absa Premiership the club was and is still battling and so rooted to the bottom of the PSL standings are they that there are whispers of them getting entangled in a relegation scrap being being murmured in dark corners or at late night pub arguments.

After the game, Hunt spoke a truism that the custodians of the League and its cup competitions will not admit. Said Hunt: “In South African football, one goal wins games - it’s one of those things ”

Thus far, 95 matches have been played in the Premiership and 184 goals have been scored, meaning that in each game 1.96 goals have been conceded.

Currently, Mamelodi Sundowns have played 10 games and have collected 19 points out of 30 to sit at the top of the log. This means they have collected 1.6 points a game, whilst scoring 1.7 goals a game. At least they are in the positive spectrum going towards three points per game.

Their nearest rivals Chippa United, Baroka have played 13 matches for the same amount of points, leaving a whopping 20 points out on the field by accruing 1.4 points per game. Of those three clubs, Bakaga are scoring the most, a titillating 1.6 goals a game.

To put this all in perspective Wits, who so handsomely won the title last season, did so by collecting two points per game. Currently, after 12 games, they are collecting only 0.8 points per game and scoring 0.5 goals a match.

Also, there have been 41 draws in the league this season, 18 of those have been goalless.

Riveting stuff.

If we were to compare these stats to the top league in the world - the English Premier League - then we will find that at a similar stage, clubs in England and Wales were scoring on average 2.5 goals per game.

The argument that we shouldn’t compare the two is fallacious, as the PSL is constantly elevated by its custodians into the lofty company of the big European leagues as being equal in standing and revenue output. In fact a recent report by the league revealed it generated R1.8bn revenue, placing it as the 52nd most successful sporting league in the world.

Which brings me to the point: There is an overemphasis of winning cup titles in South Africa and it is hurting the Absa Premiership brand.

Winning the MTN8, the Telkom KO and the Nedbank Cup have become a means to an end, not an extra incentive to drive a team forward to greatness. By lifting one of those cups, clubs can justify their season, say they are champions and be celebrated as such.

There is no need to take risks or push in the league when every so often a cup challenge comes along that can put some gloss on a poor season or give teams the opportunity to win a ridiculous boodle of cash. The fixture planning of these events, so interspersed within the larger narrative of the league season, halts any momentum building progression, putting the league into a type of purgatory that is it must escape several times, if we further count the handful of Fifa internationals breaks, too.

Cup tournaments get their own timeslots and dedicated weekends for their finals where no other local football has sway, an absurdity that should only be held in high esteem for the Nedbank Cup.

If Wits and SuperSport United were to achieve nothing more this season, then they will still be heralded for their respective cup running victories in the TKO and MTN8.

It gives the league less priority, less emphasis and pre-eminence. Now I am not saying that clubs don’t want to be crowned champions of South Africa, only that with such strong and revered cup titles, the drive to do well is much more restrained.

Coupled with the often dire football dished up in the PSL and the brand seems less required.

The Absa Premiership should be the pinnacle of SA football, instead it is playing second fiddle to its cup competitions.

The Star

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