JOHANNESBURG – As the 2017-18 PSL season gets under way this weekend, there isn’t much that suggests there will be a power shift in terms of teams that will dominate the campaign.
The usual suspects in Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs and Wits are considered title contenders from the get-go.
The jury is still out on Orlando Pirates, who have struggled over the last two years and have had an incredibly high turnover of coaches since Ruud Krol won the treble in 2011.
With Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic having taken over recently, it is expected that the Buccaneers could – at the very least – fight for a top-eight place and one of the domestic Cup competitions.
But the Serbian coach will know that’s not enough considering the stature of the club and it’s rich history.
Wits will feel they’ve probably done all they can at this point in the transfer market to strengthen their squad in an attempt to defend the league title.
Sundowns have again spent big money (bringing Oupa Manyisa and George Lebese into an already talented team) and should be seen as the team to beat.
Their cross-town rivals SuperSport have managed to hold on to their best players – releasing just one in defender Michael Boxall – while notably adding Siyabonga Nhlapho and young Sipho Mbule to their squad.
We spoke to the four coaches likely to go head-to-head in the title race this season to get their thoughts on what is expected to be yet another drama-filled, heart-stopping and exciting PSL season, where the stakes are extremely high for each one of them.
Gavin Hunt – Wits
Last season: Champions
“I think one or two have come into the equation now from last season, but I think it will be the same candidates. I can’t see anybody else out of that five or six teams surprise us like a Leicester City or something like that. We will all be close again.
“I don’t know if it will be tougher, but it certainly won’t be easy, especially if you look at last Friday’s game (Wits beat Golden Arrows 4-3 on penalties in an ill-tempered game to progress to the semi-finals of the MTN8).
“There are teams that will improve from last season, no doubt about it. Some will make more points. That is what’s good about SA football – on any day, anybody can beat anybody.”
Pitso Mosimane – Mamelodi Sundowns
Last season: Runners-up
“We didn’t protect our league title, but we should give credit to Wits. We didn’t do ourselves any justice in the last four games of the campaign because we got four draws, and looking at it, you realise we lost the title with three points.
“Maybe we didn’t want the title or it was meant for them. I think the big teams are going to struggle against the smaller clubs because of how the smaller teams play. They seem to have found a different approach. Of course we know what that is – parking the bus.”
Steve Komphela – Kaizer Chiefs
Last season: Fourth
“There are more signs of positivity than doubt. We need to keep on working and get the (positive) results. What is needed from us is to be more optimistic. We have Bloemfontein Celtic in our first game and it’s not going to be easy.
“We have looked at different strategies for the coming season, and when something doesn’t work you don’t keep doing it the same way, you apply a different approach. I do that.
“We also need to be careful how we blend youth with experience because a lot of our older players like Tsepo Masilela and Siphiwe Tshabalala are still doing very well.”
Eric Tinkler – SuperSport United
Last season: Fifth
“I think it’s going to be very similar to last season in that there could be five to six teams, possibly, competing for that league title. Wits will definitely try to defend their title when you look at the signings they have made.
“Sundowns have the quality and they have brought in Oupa and George, and it won’t stop there.
“Chiefs are always going to be a threat. I felt there are games they should have won last season, but they didn’t. Games are, unfortunately, not won by the amount of possession you have.
“We want to improve our position from last season because SuperSport were right up there until the end when they had a couple of bad results.
“We will only really know how competitive Pirates will be once they play their first game with a new coach.”