JOHANNESBURG - Ahead of the start of the Absa Premiership on Saturday, Mazola Molefe has profiled five players who could light up the league this season.
Gaston Sirino | Age: 27 | Club: Mamelodi Sundowns
There is this gaping hole left by Khama Billiat and Percy Tau at Chloorkop and coach Pitso Mosimane has already talked about the tiny Uruguayan midfielder perhaps being the ideal man to fill the void. He would have to improve his scoring ratio to make sure his side doesn’t miss that deadly duo, but if his CAF Champions League performance in the home win over Togo-Port, a fixture in which he scored the opener and superbly created the second, is anything to go by then he’s the man for the job. After all, Sirino was brought in to specifically replace Billiat as soon as it became clear that the Zimbabwean wasn’t very keen on signing a new contract a few months ago.
Khama Billiat | Age: 27 | Club: Kaizer Chiefs
By far the most talked about signing ahead of the new season. Amakhosi fans are hopeful that this undoubtedly talented talisman will be vital in helping the club end a three-year drought. In the pre-season games we’ve seen, Billiat has looked the real deal and hungry on top of that, despite the fact that he has won three league titles with Sundowns and also has a Champions League medal. He says playing for Chiefs has always been a dream of his. Some have argued that going to Naturena is somewhat of a step backwards, but he’s got to put his head down and do the talking on the pitch.
Justin Shonga | Age: 21 | Club: Orlando Pirates
The Buccaneers are going to need a consistent goal scorer to meet the high expectations already set following a rather satisfactory previous campaign. Having finished runners-up behind champions Sundowns, qualified for the Champions League and then added nine new players to an already capable squad means Pirates will not want to settle for anything less than the championship this season. Shonga didn’t struggle too much to adapt to a new league, scoring four goals from the 19 Absa Premiership matches he played in. He could excel with his countryman Augustine Mulenga alongside him upfront.
Sphelele Mkhulise | Age: 22 | Club: Mamelodi Sundowns
We know little about this player, but it is clear that he is an exciting prospect as evidenced by his cameo in the Shell Helix Cup friendly against Chiefs late last month at FNB Stadium. Those who watched, even the opposition fans, couldn’t stop talking about him. It might be too early to expect a lot from him, but he is brave, can take on players and reminds many of Tau in his early years as a Sundowns rookie. Don’t take your eye off Mkhulise, who is an academy graduate and spent some time in the NFD with Richards Bay FC.
Simon Murray | Age: 26 | Club: Bidvest Wits
He should play often. He’s Gavin Hunt’s type of player, especially now that workaholic James Keene has moved on to SuperSport United. Murray scored 17 goals from 42 matches - starting the season at Hibernian FC before being loaned out to Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League. The Wits coach, who has had a torrid time trying to find a forward that can bag at least 15 goals in his now five-year spell with the Clever Boys, believes Murray may just be the goal ace he’s been waiting for. We’ve heard Hunt say this before, so lets wait and see.