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DSTV Prem Weekend Review – Winners And Losers By OptaJabu

Every Monday, we comb through the numbers to bring out the Biggest Winners and Losers of the PSL weekend.

Rulani Mokwena

Every Monday, we comb through the numbers to bring out the Biggest Winners and Losers of the PSL weekend.

Sundowns And Strength In Depth – Winner

It may have gone unnoticed but Sundowns actually have a load of injuries that could have complicated their campaign. Their Golden Boot winner and top goal scorer are injured. Their best midfielder last season Rivaldo Coetzee is injured. Shiny new signings Bongani Zungu, Abdelmounaim Boutouil & Abubeker Nasir are all injured. Their marauding right-back Thapelo Morena is also injured. There’s more.

Yet the strength in depth of this squad is such that they can fit the rest of the puzzle pieces into the first team, and continue marching on to the title as if nothing major has happened. Strength in depth is one thing – PSL clubs often have 30+ players registered on their books at a time, but the transition between different players that Sundowns is capable of might be a key ingredient that propels them to yet another title.

Having reached the half-way stage of the season, it is worth looking at their season in perspective:

  • Most wins by a team at the half-way stage of a 30-game season in PSL history (12)
  • Joint-most points by a team at the half-way stage of a 30-game season in PSL history (37)
  • Nine consecutive league wins, two short of the PSL era record
  • 11 clean sheets at the half-way stage of the season for the 3rd successive season (a PSL first)

Rulani Mokwena – Winner

When the restructuring of Sundowns’ technical team was made at the end of October, the reasoning was that the changes were necessitated by “unconvincing victories that the club has experienced for quite some time”. It’s not that Sundowns were not winning then, but that by some measure the results alone were deemed insufficient. It meant that anything less than winning matches in a convincing manner would be seen as a failure for Rulani. But he’s stepped right up.

5 – Rulani Mokwena is the first coach to win their first five league games in charge of Sundowns

Ronwen Williams – Winner

The Bafana keeper has kept seven consecutive clean sheets in the league for the first time in his top-flight career. In PSL history, only Wayne Roberts (9 in 2003/4) has gone on a long run of consecutive shutouts (Moeneeb Josephs (twice), Kennedy Mweene & Calvin Marlin also had 7).

Unlikely Away Wins- Winner

Sekhukhune ended a 15-game streak without winning an away league game that had gone on since December 2021. Maritzburg United ended a 19-game streak without winning an away league game that had gone on since September 2021.

Royal AM – Winner

Back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since February last year brought a welcome three points for Thwihli Thwahla.

Maritzburg And Fortune – Winner

For the second consecutive game, Maritzburg benefitted from an own goal. Except for this time, it was enough to secure them the points.

The Soweto Giants – Loser

We’ll get to the individual cases, but for now, we’ve put them collectively here because they are always assumed as the main challengers to Sundowns at the beginning of the season. Based on the size, history, and resources, that assumption is not absurd. But it may soon start to resemble absurdity.

At the half-way stage of the campaign, Chiefs are closer to the bottom of the table than the top. Pirates too, who are just five points away from the relegation zone. Meanwhile, Sundowns have entered kill mode, where they suck the life out of their opponents on a weekly basis, collecting win after win, home, and away. The two sides both face Sundowns in the next month, but victory in these battles would merely be symbolic. The war may be already over.

Downs can afford to lose without serious concerns about their title ambitions, and it says a lot that matches that would traditionally be circled as “title deciders” are slowly becoming mere footnotes.

Orlando Pirates’ Bluntness – Loser

Given that he won the MTN8, we’re inclined to give Jose Riveiro a free pass until the end of the season. The trophy alone (never mind the convincing victories along the way) should be enough to extend patience towards the Spaniard and give him more time to figure it out. Watching the first half hour against Cape Town City, Pirates could easily have gone into the break 3-0 at half-time. But it’s those moments of bad decision-making in front of goal that can ruin games and for now, are threatening to ruin their seasons. Let’s take stock:

  • Pirates are the only side not to have not scored a second-half goal this season
  • 10 goals in 15 is their lowest total at the halfway stage
  • Only once before (17 points in 2015/16) have they had fewer points at the half-way stage

As long as such records continue, confidence will continue to drop, often culminating in a string of poor results. Pressure will rise on the coach and later the players, ending in a vicious cycle. This was the first time in five years that Pirates lost a game in which they scored the opening goal, and they struggled to find a way back after City’s goals.

3 – Pirates have now lost three consecutive league games for the first time since 2009/10.

Chiefs New Year Blues – Loser

1 – Chiefs have won the first league match of a New Year just once in the last nine years (W1 D4 L4).

AmaZulu – Loser

AmaZulu have won just one of their last 11 league games, having lost one of the previous 11 before.

The FNB Pitch – Loser

After a two month break with no football, the FNB pitch has only been recently reseeded. One need not be a horticultural expert to understand what “reseeding” means nor to see that there was something terribly wrong with the surface when Chiefs hosted Sekhukhune. Given the injury risk posed to players (and officials), one wonders how the PSL and Chiefs will handle their forthcoming home games.

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