Our soccer writer previews the title contest as the new Premier Soccer League season gets underway on the 18th of August 2017.
Last season’s contest was a very wide one towards the end of the season with four teams in the running for the top honours. Bidvest Wits ended up clinching the title with a match to spare after Mamelodi Sundowns stumbled towards the end of the season.
To Win Outright
Wits 4/1 | Sundowns 2/1 | Cape Town City 14/1 | Chiefs 4/1 | Pirates 7/1 | SuperSport 8/1
Bidvest Wits 4/1
Alongside Chiefs, Wits are priced as second favourites behind Sundowns but I think they are the best team in the league and should be able to successfully defend their title. Their coach, Gavin Hunt, has won four league titles with two different clubs and he’s the most successful of all the coaches who are currently in the PSL.
The Clever Boys have managed to keep the bulk of the players who helped them win the league and cup double last season. Defender of the Season and Bafana Bafana captain, Thulani Hlatshwayo, has formed a solid centre-back pairing with Buhlebuyeza Mkhwanazi. The midfield comprises of quality players like Xola Mlambi, PSL Midfielder of the Season nominee, Thabang Monare and six-time league champion Daine Klate.
They’re dangerous on the wings with Elias Pelembe and Gabadonho Mhango offering a great deal of creativity in wide areas assisted by fullbacks Nazeer Allie and Sifiso Hlanti. The team has also managed to sign former Bafana Bafana and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar as well as Daylon Claasen from 1860 Munich. PSL Young Player of the Season Siphelele Ntshanagse is a marvel to watch and his goalscoring abilities have helped the team in times of need.
If you have those players on the pitch and still have Ben Motshwari, Bongani Khumalo, Sifiso Myeni, Siboniso Gaxa, Moeneeb Josephs and Granwald Scott on the bench, it really shows that you’ve got sufficient cover in almost every position. On paper, this is the team to beat.
Mamelodi Sundowns 2/1
The Brazilians are the only team that can give Wits a serious challenge or even finish above them. The only thing that has resulted in them not winning a single domestic trophy last season is the fact that they tend to focus too much on the CAF Champions League, which they want to defend so badly. It has really tampered with the coach’s plans because players suffer fatigue and others get injured.
Pitso Mosimane has bolstered the midfield by signing Oupa Manyisa from Orlando Pirates and that should help decrease the workload on Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda. Yannick Zakri has also found his scoring boots and having a striker of his physique and abilities leading the attack, gives the team different dimensions up front.
Themba “Mshishi” Zwane is in good form and finished last season on high, earning a call up to the national team. Mshishi forms lethal a lethal combination with Percy Tau and Khama Billiat, which makes defending against Sundowns a nightmare. The only player who hasn’t really stepped up to the plate is Sibusiso Vilakazi and he has fallen down the pecking order.
Mosimane likes to defend with a right-footed and a left-footed centre-back pair and Ricardo Nascimento’s injury has really dealt him a terrible blow and he will have to settle for Thabo Nthethe and Wayne Arendse at the heart of his defence, who are both right footers and truth be told they are both too slow.
This has been one of the best performing teams in the domestic league but their lack of sharpness in front of goals has let them down. Gustavo Paez showed us a taste of what he can offer towards the end of last season and during the current pre-season. His partnership with Bernard Parker is coming alright and many defences are going to battle keeping them at bay.
They have signed Bhongolwethu Jayiya to give them that extra edge out on the right wing and we saw what he is capable of during Cape Town City’s Cinderella season. For me, George Maluleka and Tshepo Masilela haven’t pulled their weight over the past two seasons and that has contributed towards the team’s downward spiral.
Striker, Ryan Moon is currently on song and he has also featured in Stuart Baxter’s second string Bafana Bafana squad where his scoring form has continued. Chiefs will really put up a good fight this season but it won’t be enough to clinch the title.
Verdict: Bidvest Wits (4/1)
Bidvest Wits are the strongest team in the PSL and they have sufficient cover in every department. A mixture of youth and experience makes them a perfectly-balanced team. Sundowns will come close but their Champions League participation will once again take its toll on them.