DURBAN – Win one match and climb three places up the table. That’s the scenario for most clubs as the second half of the hotly contested and unpredictable Absa Premiership season kicks off with two matches tonight.
The fixture between Ajax Cape Town and Maritzburg United in the Mother City highlights the congestion in the standings, with both sides able to slide up at least three positions with a win.
The other battle magnifies the unpredictability of this league, with defending champions Bidvest Wits occupying bottom spot going into their home game against fifth-placed Free State Stars. Backtrack to the end of last season, and Wits were crowned champions, while Free State avoided the play-offs on goal difference. Both matches kick-off at 8pm.
The competition is so tight that one team, Chippa United, can advance five places with a win. Being transfer time lends to the unpredictability as squads factor in new faces, and in the case of the Urban Warriors a new coach in Muhsin Ertugral.
The Turk renews a long-standing on-off relationship with the Cape unit, and refreshes his ties with striker Tendai Ndoro who he worked with previously at Mpumalanga Black Aces and Orlando Pirates.
The Zimbabwean forward’s return to the PSL from a fling in the Middle East significantly sharpens the Ajax blade which appeared rusty because of injury to Tashreeq Morris, the absence of wantaway attacker Prince Nxumalo and relative inexperience of Sedwyn George, last season’s top scorer in the First Division.
The mere presence of Ertugral on the touchline is sure to fire Ajax up, given his strong track record with them on three previous occasions.
Mid-table Maritzburg made one transfer, bringing in left-back Bokang Tlhone from Wits in a swop deal for Denis Weidlich.
Midfielder Lebohang Maboe is optimistic Maritzburg can deliver a better second half of the season following a roller-coaster first half. “I feel like we can do a bit better, because we are a bunch of very good players. We need to keep on working hard and I’m sure we can do better than we did in the first round. I still believe we can reach the top six or even the top four if play to our best,” said the 23-year-old attacker.
Coach Fadlu Davids will look to draw more consistent performances from his men, and especially improved displays from newcomers, winger Mxolisi Kunene and playmaker Yazid Atouba.
The other two KwaZulu-Natal outfits will be in action Sunday. AmaZulu host Chippa United in uMlazi and Golden Arrows trek to Bloemfontein Celtic.
Usuthu have shed several fringe players, the latest being the loan transfers of midfielders Sibusiso Magaqa and Skhumbuzo Mazibuko to First Division sides uThongathi FC and Real Kings respectively. Arrows bolstered their midfield with the purchase of Danny Venter.