The pick of the opening round of Absa Premiership matches in 2020 will feature two champions who have forgotten how to win the ultimate prize in South African football.
This year marks a decade since the last time SuperSport United won the third of their hat-trick of league titles.
Gavin Hunt took over a good cup side and transformed them into a league juggernaut that mastered the marathon. They have since returned to being a good cup team while their league form has suffered.
Chiefs’ wait for league glory is in its fifth year while they have gone four seasons without a trophy - an anomaly for the country’s cup kings.
Starting the year on a good note will give these teams confidence heading into what will be a challenging second half of the season.
The midfield battle at Mbombela Stadium tomorrow will decide whether the points go to Naturena or the country’s capital. Both teams are heavily reliant on their midfielders for muscle and creativity.
What makes Chiefs’ midfield
Chiefs’ defenders, especially Daniel Cardoso, have attracted infamy with how Judas Moseamedi dominated them.
The club’s attackers have stolen the limelight by scoring 29 goals in 14 matches. Amakhosi have the most prolific attack in the league thanks to that strike force.
But the club’s backbone is their midfield. Players like Willard Katsande and Karyn Baccus provide muscle and a high work rate to protect the back four and give the attackers confidence going forward knowing that they are protected.
Baccus also provides creativity in attack, along with Lebogang Manyama, who is reborn in his role behind the strikers.
There is also George Maluleka, who brings strength and options in attack along with a mean boot that has scored some crackers.
Chiefs’ biggest weapon in their midfield is their strength; their midfield bosses their opponents with their power and troubles the opposing defenders with their ball playing abilities.
What makes SuperSport’s
midfield so strong?
Matsatsantsa a Pitori’s midfield has a good blend of youth and experience, creativity and hard work along with street smart and football smart.
Sipho Mbule plays with a lot of street smarts, cheekily confident when he has the ball and with the knack of scoring important goals when SuperSport have their backs against the wall.
The 21-year-old was named the Player of the Month in November. He has grown in his breakthrough season having failed to be consistent when he got his break last year. The presence of Teboho Mokoena and Dean Furman has also fast-tracked his growth.
Mokoena and Furman, however, are the heart and soul of SuperSport. They are experienced and honest in their endeavours. They also mentor Mbule, pushing him to shine.
The solid displays of Mokoena and Furman allow Mbule to venture forward and pitch in with a goal or two.
Jamie Webber, 21, is slowly finding his feet. He brings a lot of energy in a midfield that prides itself on its work ethic.
Coach Kaitano Tembo has instilled that work ethic which culminated in the club’s MTN8 victory. Tembo is looking to use that success as a catalyst to help SuperSport return to their glorious league-winning days.