Sfiso Hlanti of Bidvest Wits during the match against Mamelodi Sundowns at Bidvest Stadium, Johannesburg on 23 February. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The league race has intensified, and slowly the pretenders are being exposed while the genuine challengers are raising their hands. Four of the genuine title challengers occupy the top four positions.

Bidvest Wits

What can help them win the league? 

The Clever Boys are driven to make up for the terrible defence of their league title two seasons ago. Gavin Hunt brought new faces who have returned Wits to their former glory. While some of the chasers have games in hand, Wits have points in the bag. They are led by serial winner Hunt, who has won the Absa Premiership more than all the other 15 coaches.

What stands in their way? 

Four of their five defeats have come at home. What was the cornerstone of their league triumph two seasons ago is now their Achilles heel. The Clever Boys aren’t ruthless enough, like when they allowed Mamelodi Sundowns to leave with a point on Saturday despite playing for almost an hour with a man advantage.

Musa Nyatama of Orlando Pirates during the match against AmaZulu at the Orlando Stadium on 23 February. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Musa Nyatama of Orlando Pirates during the match against AmaZulu at the Orlando Stadium on 23 February. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates

What can help them win the league? 

When they’re in the mood, the Buccaneers are devastating. AmaZulu felt that this weekend. The head coach Milutin Sredojevic has tasted success in most places he’s been to in the continent while Rhulani Mokwena brings attention to detail and Fadlu Davids has a knack of transforming average players to superstars. If that holy trinity works well, the Holy Grail will go to Orlando.

What stands in their way? 

Themselves. Pirates blow hot and cold. They were without a win in six games in all competitions before thumping AmaZulu. Their defensive frailties, struggling to deal with fast attackers, has dented their league ambitions. If it wasn’t for their attack, they wouldn’t be considered in the race such is the state of their defence where they struggle to keep clean sheets. In the final stretch matches will be decided by small margins, like being tight at the back in close encounters.

Sundowns players react in disappointment after sending off of Wayne Arendse during the match against Bidvest Wits on 23 February. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Sundowns players react in disappointment after sending off of Wayne Arendse during the match against Bidvest Wits on 23 February. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns

What can help them win the league?

Experience. The Brazilians are a well-oiled machine whose core is made up of players who have conquered the continent. This season has been their worst showing under coach Pitso Mosimane yet they’re among favourites with their games in hand. This speaks of the quality and the depth at their disposal, able to keep up with the chasing pack while Mosimane rebuilds the side. Their CAF Champions League experience has helped them in terms of how to manage tight games.

What stands in their way? 

Sundowns have been playing non-stop since 2016 due to their involvement in the CAF Champions League. The amount of football will drain them mentally due to the high stakes. Fitness trainer Kabelo Rangoaga mastered the art of ensuring that Sundowns don’t suffer from fatigue, but mental fatigue is harder to manage.

Teko Modise congratulates Gift Links of Cape Town City during the game against Maritzburg United at Athlone Stadium on 23 February. Photo: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix
Teko Modise congratulates Gift Links of Cape Town City during the game against Maritzburg United at Athlone Stadium on 23 February. Photo: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix

Cape Town City

What can help them win the league? 

The Citizens have a habit of spoiling the party for the 'big teams'. For a time they were Mamelodi Sundowns’ hoodoo team and they have stunned Bidvest Wits a lot. They also returned with three points from Kaizer Chiefs. Their ability to turn up in big matches puts them in a good position in a final stretch that has two meetings with Sundowns, a trip to Bidvest Wits and a home game against Orlando Pirates.

What stands in their way? 

City are thin in midfield with injuries to Thabo Nodada and Roland Putsche. They brought in Travis Graham and Chris David but David has to adjust to playing in the country and Graham has to dust the cobwebs after a lengthy time out. Those injuries and their lack of championship pedigree will be their biggest challenges. They need to manage their emotions, which is a tough ask at this stage and will be harder with a coach who can get worked up.

Football Reporter



The Star

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter