Our football scribe previews the biggest match in the PSL in week one of the 2016/17 season, with Bidvest Wits coming up against Kaizer Chiefs.
Another season of top flight football kicks off during midweek with a clash between last season’s runners-up, Bidwest Wits, and 2014/15 champions Kaizer Chiefs. The away side needs little introduction, with the Amakhosi arguably the most successful club in the history of South African football. Gavin Hunt’s Clever Boys have been a mainstay at the top of the table in recent years but have struggled when pitted against the Sowetan giants.
Bidvest Wits v Kaizer Chiefs | Tuesday 23 August | Bidvest Stadium | 19:30
Bidvest Wits 31/20 | Draw 2/1 | Kaizer Chiefs 33/20
Bidvest Wits have emerged as one of the top teams in the country in recent years, finishing third in 2014/15 and second last term. All that’s left now is to win the league! Gavin Hunt will not be getting ahead of himself as all the manager is currently focused on is making a good start to the season at home to a side that has proved a thorn for the Clever Boys.
Wits newcomer Cuthbert Malajila believes that the side are ready to challenge for top honours and are excited for their match with Chiefs, especially given that the opening fixture is at home. The Zimbabwean striker joined the Clever Boys along with Mogakalodi Ngele as part of a swap deal involving Sibusiso Vilakazi, who has departed for Sundowns. Although Bidvest Wits will surely miss the industrious attacking midfielder, they’ve also strengthened the squad in the form of Darren Keet between the sticks, with Eleazar Rodgers, Sifiso Hlanti and the highly-rated Xola Mlambo additional new arrivals.
Phakamani Mahlambi is a player who will look to build on a promising debut season in the PSL. The 18-year-old forward made a big impact in the league last season, bursting onto the scene with some scintillating performances and some outstanding goals.
Bidvest Wits have beaten Chiefs only once in the last nine times of asking, playing out three draws and losing on five occasions. The Amakhosi did the double over the Clever Boys last season and certainly won’t be intimidated by a visit to Bidvest Stadium.
Last season’s barren trophy cabinet is simply unacceptable at a club as popular and successful as Kaizer Chiefs. Despite reaching two cup finals, Steve Komphela’s charges fell at both hurdles and were made to settle for a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Absa Premiership. After dominating South African football the year before, this season the club will look to restore the pride of its supporters and will need a strong showing on opening day at Bidvest Stadium.
The Amakhosi have been busy in the transfer window, with the likes of Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siboniso Gaxa, Keegan Ritchie and Morgan Gould all departing after 2015/16’s lacklustre showing. It’s clear that mediocrity will not be accepted at the club and that big-name players will be sacrificed for emerging talent that can provide excitement and chemistry in an important season.
Players such as Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Sibusiso Khumalo, Keagan Buchanan, Enocent Mkhabela, Edmore Chirambadare, Emmanuel Letlotlo and Lewis Macha have all been brought in, while the club has ramped up its efforts in looking to sign 23-year-old breakout midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase from Black Leopards.
Some of the new Glamour Boys made an encouraging start as Chiefs beat Orlando Pirates 2-0 in the recent Carling Black Label Cup. Nevertheless, there is still tons of work to be done if the Amakhosi hope to challenge for the title come end of the season.
This looks like it will play out as a tight, cagey fixture that neither side will want to lose, but would probably be content with drawing. Home ground advantage will galvanise the Clever Boys but Chiefs’ new-look squad will not be overawed by the occasion. I’m tipping these sides to share the spoils as both make uncertain starts to the new campaign.