While the Tshwane Derby will serve as the main attraction in the opening round of the 2019/20 Absa Premiership season today, Orlando Pirates will be hoping to hit top gear from the outset in their opener against Bloemfontein Celtic in Soweto.
The majority of the interest will be in the nation’s capital based on the fact that Mamelodi Sundowns will begin their title defence and chase for ‘La Decima’ against cross-town rivals SuperSport United at Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.
However, while full points for Sundowns will ensure that they send a strong message to the opposition about their intentions for the season, a draw - or even a loss - won't dent their glittering pedigree in the eyes of the discerning Ka Bo Yellow Nation.
They have, after all, been slow starters during their recent six-year dominance.
Unfortunately, such shortcomings wouldn’t be welcomed by The Ghost, the Pirates faithful who’ve had to endure the pain of watching their team finish as Premiership runners-up to Sundowns in the last two seasons - indicating a bright start will play a huge role in ensuring they finish on pole.
In ensuring they achieve this feat, the club’s management led by chairman Irvin Khoza have had a busy shopping spree during the transfer window, signing no fewer than nine players to bolster their squad. And these include Bidvest Wits’ talisman Gabadinho Mhango, who is adamant he’ll inspire the team to silverware this term to end the Sea Robbers’ five-year-drought.
“There’s a lot of difference (between Wits and Pirates), and when I came here, everything changed,” Mhango stated.
“There were things that I didn’t know before, but when I got here, I learnt a lot of things. As a player your dream is about winning trophies. So, if you are talking about winning games, then obviously you’ll win trophies.”
Having been in and out of the Wits set-up last season, Mhango made the headlines after agreeing with the club to exercise his one-year option on his contract at the end of the season.
However, he admits that wasn’t more of the club “still valuing his services than they were looking to bargain from his interests”.
Mhango is reuniting with former members of the 2016/17 Premiership winning class in Xola Mlambo, Ben Motshwari and Vincent Pule.
“Yes, I still do think like I am still at Wits, because now I am the fourth one to come here in the last three seasons,” Mhango explained.
“Yes, there are some people who still call us the Clever Boys. We used to be there but not anymore.”
The Malawian-born forward has already got a taste of the sought-after Soweto Derby between Pirates and arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, coming on as a second half substitute in the Carling Black Label Cup last Saturday.
However, Mhango will be hoping to impress the technical team and The Ghost should he make his full debut against former employers Celtic at Orlando Stadium this evening (6pm).
“I think I need to be ready for any game. I prepare as a team and not for myself,” he said. “I need to go out there and do my best, despite being up against a team I've played for.”