Bidvest Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs are, without a doubt, the pre-season favourites to claim Premiership title in 2017/18, but a re-built Orlando Pirates are not far behind. David Minchella looks at the strengths of each of these club’s to see who holds the advantage.
It was South Africa’s very own version of Neymar leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in terms of shock value and public interest, when Oupa Manyisa departed Pirates for Sundowns.
Indeed, the move has been the most sensational of the domestic pre-season transfer window in that no one had any clue that Manyisa would swap Mayfair for Chloorkop. Here was the Sea Robbers captain, the playmaker and heartbeat, leaving the club he’d given close to nearly a decade of sterling service.
Just as Pirates bringing on board new coach Milutin Sredojevic for Kjell Jonevret had been the club’s worst kept secret, Ace’s move was the best kept. By allowing Manyisa to leave, Bucs boss Dr Irvin Khoza had made his intentions clear – it was out with the old and in with the new after a disastrous 2016/17.
Indeed, on the same day his exit was announced to gasps from reporters, recent signings Thamsanqa Sangweni and Musa Nyatama were part of a central midfield three with Abbubaker Mobara in a friendly against SuperSport United. Along with veteran goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands and Nigerian striker, Christian Obiozor, the players represent a bold future.
By comparison, neighbours Chiefs have had a conservative window with the arrivals of the unheralded Teenage Hadebe, Philani Zulu and Dumisani Zuma, along with Bhongolwethu Jayiya, who is arguably the most proven Premiership performer.
However, with the current crop of players available to Steve Komphela, there were hugely positive signs in the recent pre-season victory over Pirates, with Bernard Parker and Gustavo Paez particularly prominent in their partnership upfront.
Reigning champions Wits continue to wheel and deal with the very best as Gavin Hunt has added top quality free agents. Steven Pienaar’s signature is the headline acquisition alongside Daylon Claasen.
Seventeen-year-old Kobamelo Kodisang is one for the future while Thato Thlone is an experienced defender. Montenegrin defender Slavko Damjanovic is an unknown quantity but Hunt is said to rate him highly.
Meanwhile, juggernauts Sundowns have seen veteran playmaker Teko Modise depart for Cape Town City, but they still boast great quality in every department.
It seems Manyisa has been brought in as a like-for-like replacement for the General, yet it remains to be seen what coach Pitso Mosimane has in mind. Sandilands’ exit to Bucs has been offset by the arrival of Ghanaian keeper Brimah Razak, in an otherwise quiet window for Africa’s champions.
With the 2017/18 title race in question, it appears Wits are in pole position with Pienaar and Claasen joining Hunt’s little changed title-winning squad. Chiefs have acquired few big names but may lack the squad depth to sustain a challenge.
Downs possess a fantastic squad and will undoubtedly be a threat, though it remains to be seen how much their extra CAF Champions League commitments take a toll. For Bucs, it takes time for a new coach and players to gel so it would perhaps be a surprise if they were to mount a challenge, however, the side have everything to gain after the nightmare of last season.
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