Last season’s title rivals, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, kick-start the DStv Premiership with a mouth-watering encounter to look forward to at the FNB Stadium on Saturday. Both clubs have new coaches in charge, but the objective remains the same: bring home the glory or pressure will slowly start to mount.
Gavin Hunt got his Kaizer Chiefs tenure off to a winning start, coming from behind to knock Maritzburg United out of the MTN8, while Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena’s managerial career as joint-head coaches got off to a disappointing start as Masandawana were eliminated in the MTN8 by Bloemfontein Celtic. Sundowns have the best players in the division, but Amakhosi boast the best coach in the land, so let’s take a closer look at how this tie could pan out:
DStv Premiership | Saturday 24 October | FNB Stadium | 15:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Kaizer Chiefs 39/20
Mamelodi Sundowns 15/10
One game in and Gavin Hunt will know all about the task at hand for Kaizer Chiefs this season. Amakhosi showed that old habits die hard in their first half against Maritzburg United where they lacked a bit of fight and didn’t look up for the battle ahead.
In the second half, though, Hunt clearly gave his players a good talking to which saw the club rejuvenated with a few players rolling back the years to pull off one of their best performances in recent years, most notably Bernard Parker, who looked like the player he was back in his heyday.
Hunt also got his changes spot on with Leonardo Castro and Njabulo Blom making an instant impact off the bench for the Glamour Boys, while Happy Mashiane added to the wealthy young talent Chiefs have at their disposal.
With Chiefs currently banned from signing new players, the current crop of players will have to perform extra hard to ensure success with the club. Another name alongside Parker who stepped up was 20-year-old Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and left-back, Yagan Sasman, who netted a brace – giving Hunt assurances that he’ll be up for the fight with Sifiso Hlanti currently training with the club.
Kaizer Chiefs will still be without their star striker, Samir Nurkovic, who is likely to remain on the sidelines due to injury, although Hunt will welcome back Willard Katsande and Lebogang Manyama back from suspension.
As expected, the pressure is already starting to be pushed forward by the public on the coaching situation at Mamelodi Sundowns. It comes with the cost of losing your first game in charge.
Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena got off to a difficult start and time will tell whether they will be afforded with the same amount of time Pitso Mosimane had where Sundowns had earned the reputation of starting off the new season off slowly.
To make matters worse, the position of joint-head coaches is a rarity, with many hoping it fails just because it is something unpopular to the game of football.
Despite all the uncertainty around the coaching fiasco, it still remains a simple case of getting the best out of the highest quality in the land at Sundowns. Masandawana are blessed in every department of the football pitch with Mngqithi and Mokwena having the option to choose between Ricardo Goss and Denis Onyango in goals while the likes of Aubrey Modiba and Mosa Lebusa could be given starting berths in defence.
Having the number of midfielders Sundowns have, many fan favourites are expected to miss out with Andile Jali’s omission from the line-up still a key talking point. Downs still have Grant Magerman, Mothobi Mvala and George Maluleka who are all yet to feature, though they could struggle to put club captain, Hlompho Kekana, and Rivaldo Coetzee out of the team.
In attack, Peter Shalulile had a decent debut performance for Sundowns, giving Mngqithi and Mokwena a taste of what he brings to the team, while Kermit Erasmus also made his first appearance in the yellow and blue colours of Masandawana.
It will be interesting to see how they set up alongside dynamic duo, Themba Zwane and Gaston Sirino. If they can get it working at an early stage of the season, the 10-time league champions could certainly claim their fourth successive league title.
Verdict: Draw (22/10)
Saturday’s encounter is certainly one of the biggest games in the land, but sadly, I’m afraid it may have come too soon to see both coaching staff’s blueprint on each team. Having said that, from what we’ve seen from both Chiefs and Sundowns’ opener is that Amakhosi will be up for any fight under Hunt this season. They may not have the quality to match Sundowns on the pitch, but a tactical masterclass could see Hunt get his first point with the Glamour Boys, with a draw being my prediction at 22/10.
Written by Jesse Nagel