In what has been perhaps the most chaotic off-season in recent memory, the champions have lost their coach and the most recent winners before they lost their PSL status. A new face has entered at Naturena to preside over the coaching staff, while several have joined Orlando Pirates in the players’ department.
If you are preparing to bet on the season ahead, it is best to formulate a prediction on how the changes off the pitch will affect the football on it. Here is our best attempt.
Change within the champions
Although Mamelodi Sundowns still have the core of their treble-winning squad, they’ve made major changes on and off the pitch.
All appeared to be going well at Chloorkop when Pitso Mosimane and Hlompho Kekana extended their contracts until 2024. New signings came through the door thick and fast. However, Pitso Mosimane was unexpectedly reeled away by Al Ahly. He took fitness coach Kabelo Rangoaga and performance analyst Musi Matlaba along with him.
There is no doubt that Mosimane will be missed, but the team is in good hands under Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena. Steve Komphela’s appointment as senior coach raised eyebrows because he will be reporting to Mngqithi and his former mentee, Mokwena. However, an appointment of this nature should not be frowned upon.
Carlos Queiroz left Sir Alex Ferguson’s tutelage at Manchester United to manage Real Madrid, the world’s most successful football club. After one season, he returned to his old job at the Red Devils. Likewise, being a past Dutch champion did not stop Steve McClaren from serving as Harry Redknapp’s assistant at QPRs.
Mngqithi and Mokwena could easily have been too proud to work under Mosimane at Sundowns. But their willingness to serve has paid dividends. Of course, the question which arises is: with three esteemed coaches on the touchline, who is the man in charge? On paper, Manqoba Mngqithi’s word should prevail in case of a disagreement.
The coaching trio’s co-operation will be no doubt be put to the test. Sundowns having an abundance of experience in the coaching dugout is a positive rather than a negative. In all likelihood, with the players at their disposal, Mngqithi, Mokwena and Komphela will replicate the club’s recent success.
Gavin’s hunt for glory
Gavin Hunt has finally been given a shot with one of the big three. This after leading the unfancied SuperSport United to three league titles and Bidvest Wits to one. In Dillon Sheppard and Arthur Zwane, he has exactly the help he needs. Two coaches who can help him make the most of the young players at his disposal. Chiefs face a similar problem to Chelsea last year due to their transfer ban. They can use this as an opportunity to upskill the likes of Reeve Frosler, Njabulo Blom and Keletso Sifama.
Amakhosi will be desperate for a title this season after their late collapse on the brink of glory in 2019-20. Sundowns are still a stronger team on paper, but Chiefs are likely to be in the mix once again. The continuity within their ranks in terms of playing personnel will serve the Glamour Boys well.
How can Orlando Pirates avoid rough seas?
After near misses in the previous two campaigns, Orlando Pirates appeared ready to end their league title drought in 2019-20. However, the Buccaneers hit turbulent waters early on with Milutin Sredojević leaving for Zamalek at short notice. The team’s shortcomings had already been exposed in a 3-0 defeat to SuperSport United. And it did not get any better until midway through the season, but they had a mountain to climb.
Rhulani Mokwena had his moments of success, but his team struggled defensively. Josef Zinnbauer took over and all appeared well, but then the goals dried up and the German mentor battled for answers.
However, Zinnbauer can chalk up his first half-season as a job well done overall. Once again, Pirates have brought in impressive recruits in the transfer window to aid the coach’s title pursuit in 2020-21. Deon Hotto, in particular, is a man who can have a major impact on the team going forward. While Thulani Hlatshwayo can provide some much-needed balance at the other end.
Pirates are likely to be in the title race once again this season, but a lack of continuity has hurt them in recent campaigns. Sundowns still have the core of the team which has brought them so much success in recent years, so the Buccaneers still have some catching up to do. It may take a sustained plan carried out over several years before Pirates can truly fulfil their immense potential.
SuperSport United and Cape Town City stake their claim
COVID-19 hit clubs outside the so-called “big three” hardest. However, the abundance of young talent in SuperSport United’s ranks means they are well-positioned to weather the storm. Kaitano Tembo is a trusted figure at the club and his steady leadership can help them grow from strength to strength.
Matsatsantsa are best-positioned to become the main threat to Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns. Although this may not have been so clear-cut had Cape Town City held onto Kermit Erasmus.
City were the Quarter Four winners last season and Jan Olde Riekerink appears to be coming to grips with life in South Africa. He still has a talented squad and a CAF Confederation Cup place is not out of the question for the Mother City club.
New boys on the block
It is difficult to know what to expect from TS Galaxy and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM FC) in the top flight. Both are likely to struggle to find their feet — especially given that TTM FC did not secure the services of former Chippa United head coach Norman Mapeza. The two clubs’ structures will be put to the test as they look to compete with far more established sides.
Swallows FC, however, look more ready for the DSTV Premiership. They improved steadily throughout 2019-20 to ultimately pip Ajax Cape Town to the title. Their array of new signings might take time to settle, but they have a strong core of players who can lead the Dube Birds back to the heights at which they belong.