South African PSL Preview

The wait is over. South Africa’s 2015/16 Premier Soccer League kicks off on Saturday with a lot of anticipation and excitement as the country’s soccer lovers await what this season has in-store. Champions Kaizer Chiefs are favourites to retain their title, but only slightly ahead of a dangerous Mamelodi Sundowns squad and their main rivals Orlando Pirates. Chiefs are not the formidable force that set a new unbeaten record last season following the departure of several key members. Most crucially Stuart Baxter left the club to manage in Turkey while captain Tefu Mashamaite and top performer Mandla Masango also opted out in an effort to secure moves that will earn them more money (yet to happen). Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns team were a relatively new bunch of stars put together last season and they now have valuable experience that could get them the title they surrendered to Chiefs. However, in Alje Schut Mosimane lost not only a great player but also a great leader and it remains to be seen if Sundowns will miss the experienced Dutchman. Pirates’ participation in Africa during the off-season was evident against Chiefs in the Carling Black Label Cup last weekend and coach Eric Tinkler will be hoping his teams match sharpness will allow the Buccaneers to have a strong start to the season.

Saturday 8th August

Free State Stars 11/10 | Draw 22/10 | MP Black Aces 21/10

Free State Stars take on Mpumalanga Black Aces in one of two matches that will kick off the ABSA Premiership season. Free State Stars were once again on the brink of relegation last season but managed a miraculous fight back that saw them go on a eight match unbeaten run an end the league in ninth position. Black Aces finished a place below Stars and were four points adrift of their opponents. As Always Free State Stars have beefed up their squad with players scouted from the lower leagues in a hope that they can turn them into stars. Black Aces have made a few decent signings from other PSL clubs as well as Liberian striker Kpah Sherman who they plucked from the Tanzanian League. Their chairman has stated that he expects the 23-year-old to link up well with fellow striker Collins Mbesuma and has gone as far as to say that he is arguably one of the best players the club have ever signed. These sides drew both their league meetings 2-2 last season. Free State Stars did get more of their wins at home during 201/15 but Aces managed to draw eight of their 15 travels, losing only four times. The draw is tipped for a third consecutive head-to-head between the clubs. 

Polokwane 12/10 | Draw 22/10 | Bloem Celtic 19/10

Polokwane will host Bloemfontein Celtic in the other PSL opener on Saturday. Polokwane finished only four points above the relegation zone last season while Celtic managed a top eight spot comfortably, which resulted in them losing drive towards the end of the campaign and end off losing three matches in a row to drop down to seventh spot. Rise and Shine conceded the most goals in the league last season, 60, and had the worst goal difference as well. These sides have met six times with Polokwane winning only once to Celtic’s four victories. Clinton Larsen has acquired some good attacking talent for Phunya Sele Sele and they are tipped to come out of Polokwane with three points in the bag. 

Platinum Stars 22/10 | Draw 22/10 | Sundowns 1/1

Last season’s runners-up will start their effort to wrestle back the title with an away match against Platinum Stars. Dikwena finished in a disappointing 11th place which led to the sacking of coach Allan Freese. They looked a shadow of the team that won the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout the season prior after cashing in on some key players. Cavin Johnson returned for his second spell at the club towards the end of last season and will be looking to put Platinum back in the top eight as he did with them in the 2012/13 campaign. Sundowns have just two new players in Keegan Dolly and Burundian striker Fiston Abdul Razak as they try to settle a squad that saw an influx of players arrive last season. The Brazilians won both away matches in Rustenburg last season beating Platinum 3-1 in the Cup and 2-1 in the league. I expect Pitso Mosimane’s charges to start the season on a high.

Wits 8/10 | Draw 22/10 | Ajax CT 3/1

Two of last season’s better performers will go head-to-head on Sunday in what looks the most competitive fixture of the weekend. Bidvest Wits managed a third-place finish for a consecutive season while a youthful Ajax Cape Town team clinched fifth spot. Gavin Hunt has made some sterling signings in the likes of Daine Klate (from Pirates), Elias Pelembe (Sundowns), Nazeer Allie (Ajax) and former Scottish based Keaghan Jacobs (Livingston). Ajax have had to add some depth to their squad by bringing in young talent. Both teams won their respective home games against each other last season so I expect a stronger Wits side to once again claim maximum points at the Bidvest Stadium. 

Sunday 9th August

Golden Arrows 15/10 | Draw 21/10 | Uni. Of Pretoria 15/10

Golden Arrows celebrate their return to the top flight with a home match at Chatsworth Stadium against University of Pretoria. AmaTuks finished just two points above the relegation zone last season after scoring the second least amount of goals (28 in 30 matches). They won only three away games, drawing seven times and losing five matches. Arrows lost just one home match all season en-route to the NFD title. However, that was under Shaun Bartlett and with a new coach in Serame Letsoaka at the helm I foresee a draw in their opening game. 

Chippa 4/1 | Draw 5/2 | Kaizer Chiefs 6/10

Chippa United escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, finishing above Moroka Swallows only on goal difference. They have the most unfortunate opening fixture against champions Kaizer Chiefs whom they have never scored against in four encounters since their promotion to the top tier. AmaKhosi were excellent last season, finishing 12 points clear of second-place Sundowns and losing only three games while winning 21 of their 30 encounters. They have some injury concerns in defence but look strong going forward. Steve Komphela will be looking for nothing less than three points in his first league game especially with his new players looking to impress him of their capabilities. Chippa will be rearing to go and finally get a goal against their bigger rivals, so go for Chiefs to Win + Both Teams to Score at a tasty 3/1. A safer bet will be Both Teams To Score on offer at a decent 11/10. 

Monday 10th August

Maritzburg 8/10 | Draw 22/10 | Jomo Cosmos 3/1

Maritzburg United will host newly promoted Jomo Cosmos at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Monday night. Jomo Sono’s charges return after finishing second in the NFD and winning the promotion play-offs ahead of Black Leopards and Moroka Swallows. They relied on their excellent home form last season, winning only five of their 15 travels and losing six times. Ezenkosi have made nine new signings in a hope of avoiding relegation and the team could take time to gel. Maritzburg will be under the leadership of last season’s assistant coach, Mandla Ncikazi, following the departure of Steve Komphela. The Team of Choice managed a rare feat of finishing inside of the top eight last season and the club have kept Ncikazi with the hope that continuity can bring the minnows similar success. Cosmos struggled on the road in the NFD so I expect Maritzburg to claim a win here.

SuperSport 22/10 | Draw 21/10 | Orlando Pirates 11/10

The first set of PSL fixtures has served up a cracker with SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates clashing at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday evening. This game takes place midweek because of Pirates’ CAF Confederations fixture against Sfaxien on Saturday. Gordon Igesund’s charges finished sixth place last season, two positions behind Pirates. The ex-Bafana Bafana coach was appointed after a tragic start under Cavin Johnson and did wonders with the team. He has made some significant signings in his short tenure and also added two more international players from Australia and New Zealand during the off-season. The Buccaneers tasted Carling Black Label success last weekend with a penalty shootout victory after drawing 1-1 with rivals Kaizer Chiefs. They have a well balanced team that have impressed in Africa recently. The Sea Robbers managed to win both league meetings against Matsatsantsa last season and are tipped for victory once more. 

Written by Wayde Dorkin
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Soccer Pro’s Picks
FS Stars DRAW 22/10
Bloem Celtic WIN 19/10
Sundowns WIN 1/1
Wits WIN 8/10
Golden Arrows DRAW 21/10
Chiefs BTTS 11/10
Maritzburg WIN 8/10
Pirates WIN 11/10