Reigning South African champions, SuperSport United will be hunting for an unprecedented fourth title triumph in succession when the domestic league, South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) resumes this weekend.
United, affectionately known as Matsatsantsa aPitoli, have won the league three times in a row – equalling the feat achieved by only one South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns few years ago. Under their coach, Gavin Hunt, the Pretoria-based outfit have continued to impress and mature, but Hunt is not getting carried away by the success.
“Every season is different and we know that we have to work extra harder this year," he told FIFA.com. "It’s great to win the accolades, but I think it’s too early for us to talk about a fourth title. We believe in taking each game as it comes. The most important thing is to collect maximum points early in the season and then build from that success. I don’t want to put these boys under unnecessary pressure by talking about the end of the season. Let’s wait for kick-off and see what happens."
While SuperSport’s dominance has been going unchallenged for the past three years, some of South Africa’s top sides, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have strengthened their squads in search of an elusive league title. Traditionally, it is these three teams that have almost dominated the local scene for many years. Chiefs have kept the core of their squad while Sundowns, who are owned by one of the country’s richest mining magnates, has once again embarked on a spending spree to entice the country’s top talent.
SuperSport will launch their defence against Wits University on Saturday evening at Ellis Park Stadium.
Another side-show sees some of the country’s most gifted footballers, most of whom participated at the recent 2010 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil when they renew their club rivalry. Kaizer Chiefs duo Itumeleng Khune and midfield maestro Siphiwe Tshabalala, Orlando Pirates pair Teko Modise and Moeneeb Josephs, Sundowns’ striker Katlego Mphela and defender Siboniso Gaxa and SuperSport’s Bongani Khumalo, will go head-to-head over ther course of the domestic season.
Khune, who starred for South Africa at the FIFA World Cup, is relishing an opportunity to face-off with his former team-mates. “We are all professional," he said. "When we are in the national team, we are team-mates, but when we play for our clubs, then we are competitors – for 90 minutes, we all know that there is no friendship. We all love winning against each other. I think that’s healthy because that makes our standard improve.”
If first impressions count, the newly promoted Vasco da Gama will be hoping to make a grand entrance in the league when they face one of the oldest clubs in the country, Orlando Pirates in the season opener at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday evening. It will be the first ever game in the elite ranks for the Cape side who were promoted in May. For many years, Vasco were known as the perennial strugglers in the country’s first division and their maiden promotion has brought tears of joy in the famous Cape Flats – the place where players like Benni McCarthy and former Manchester United player, Quinton Fortune come from.
Pirates, on the other hand, have not won the league in eight years and under Dutch legend, Rudi Krol, they will be hoping for a reversal of fortunes. Under Krol, they have flattered in patches, but consistency has been hard to find.
One of the biggest coup for the PSL has been the arrival of Kermit Erasmus – once touted to be South Africa’s brightest young talent. Erasmus has returned to South Africa for a season in order to reinvent himself following a season with mixed fortunes in Netherlands for Feyenoord where he couldn’t command a permanent starting place. Erasmus has been, for years, earmarked to be the heir to the McCarthy title as the No1 striker in the country.
He is not the only player who has retuned home to revive fortunes. Former Stuttgart defender, Bradley Carnell has signed with SuperSport United while 24-year old former Newcastle United midfield, Matthew Pattison is still finding his feat with Pretoria-side, Mamelodi Sundowns.