The Contenders: Who’s in pole?


Putting aside the endless debates about the PSL's fixturing and how Orlando Pirates’ CAF Champions League and MTN8 exploits affected that, the season basically only starts now.

In the next month there will be five largely unbroken rounds of fixtures, so only then can we truly formulate who the contenders, also-rans, mid-table bores and those in trouble will be.

Pre-season predictions all had Chiefs, Sundowns, SuperSport and Pirates as the contenders, but will that still be the case come the end of November?

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at their fixtures during that time…

Chiefs: Pirates (home), Ajax (away), Wits (home) and Sundowns (away)

Sundowns: AmaZulu (home), Polokwane City (away), Free State Stars (home), University of Pretoria (away) and Chiefs (home)

SuperSport: Maritzburg (away), Celtic (home), Platinum Stars (away), Golden Arrows (home) and Pirates (away)

Pirates: Chiefs (away), Black Aces (home), *Swallows (away), SuperSport (home)
*dependent on whether Pirates reach the CAF Champions League Final

The nature of the PSL means that it’s difficult to pick who will win matches, but looking at those fixtures Sundowns have the best run ahead of them, with only their home clash against Chiefs on 23 November not looking like a guaranteed win; based on the opponents, not their current form of course.

On the other hand, ahead of that fixture reigning champions Chiefs have a true test of their credentials, starting with the Soweto Derby. Thereafter they face their Cape nemesis in Ajax and a challenging one against Gavin Hunt's Wits. Should Stuart Baxter finalise a new contract before or after that run you wonder…

SuperSport, meanwhile, have a run of fixtures that they will back themselves to come through well, before facing Pirates the day after Sundowns face Chiefs.

But Maritzburg, under a new coach, Celtic under a new coach, a confident Platinum Stars facing their ex-coach and Arrows under a new coach all present unique challenges to Cavin Johnson’s men. A make-or-break period awaits them too, perhaps.

Pirates will be left largely where they are now, off the pace. A place in the CAF Champions League Final will see another of their upcoming matches (against Swallows) postponed, leaving toughies against Chiefs, Aces and SuperSport on their plate.

Lose any of those (and how the fans will take it out on Roger de Sa!) and the prospect of catching up already postponed fixtures and points should prove too much.

What about Swallows and AmaZulu, who have wormed their way amongst the contenders early on?

Well Swallows have Celtic (away), Platinum Stars (home), Arrows (away), possibly Pirates (home) and Ajax (away), while AmaZulu face Sundowns (away), Maritzburg (home), Polokwane City (away), Celtic (home) and Free State Stars (away).

Both their fortunes will be determined by how they fare away in their upcoming fixtures, which leaves you wondering whether we will be hailing Pitso Mosimane as Sundowns' savior come the start of December. Don't bet against it…