DStv Premiership returns — some key takeaways from SA’s top-flight football league
After a two-month hiatus, South Africa’s top-flight football league, the DStv Premiership, made its much anticipated return.
While there were some shock outcomes as the DStv Premiership kicked off this past weekend, perennial league winners Mamelodi Sundowns underlined their status as the best football team in the country by beating Cape Town City.
The most notable weekend result was Kaizer Chiefs’ 1-0 loss to Royal AM — who are in their sophomore season in the Premiership. Meanwhile, in the first KwaZulu-Natal derby of the season, new kids on the block Richards Bay stunned seasoned campaigners Golden Arrows 2-0 in KwaMashu, Durban.
But there were no surprises when defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns hit the ground running with a comfortable 2-0 win over last season’s runners-up City.
Left-back Aubrey Modiba registered an early goal of the season contender with a cracking free kick, with veteran Themba Zwane ensuring the three points just two minutes after Modiba’s belter.
In Soweto, Spanish coach Jose Riveiro launched his tenure as the new Orlando Pirates leader with a 1-0 win over Swallows. New striker Bienvenu Eva Nga, signed from Chippa United, scored the key goal that clinched victory for the Bucs in the original Soweto derby.
Elsewhere, last season’s surprise side Stellenbosch, who ended the 2021/2022 campaign in fourth place, were held to a nil-all stalemate by Marumo Gallants. TS Galaxy and AmaZulu recorded the same result in their clash, while Maritzburg United and Sekhukhune United could also not be separated — playing to a 1-1 draw.
Plethora of goalkeepers
There were eyebrows raised when Bafana Bafana’s first-choice goalkeeper Ronwen Williams agreed to join undisputed South African champions Sundowns in the off season — ending his 12-year stay at SuperSport United.
Questions surfaced on how his move to Matsatsantsa’s Tshwane neighbours — who already boast three high-quality goalkeepers in Denis Onyango, Kennedy Mweene and Reyaad Pieterse — would affect the national team.
However, following his assured display on debut against the Citizens, complemented by a clean sheet, Williams is likely to be granted sufficient game time at Masandawana. Though he will not play every game as he did for SuperSport.
“With Ronwen the decision was to try and induct him as quickly as possible, the road ahead is a little bit rough and the competition in that space is still going to be rough,” Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi explained on Williams being thrown straight into the thick of things.
“But it’s always better when he’s going to be playing at the back of a performance against Cape Town City because already he has played a very intense and very high-profile game. The save that he pulled will maybe also help him to calm his nerves a little bit,” added the Masandawana mentor.
“It’s a decision that we took as coaches. Denis, Kennedy and Reyaad have been very good in training and so has Ronwen.
It’s also very important to induct a player that you think is going to be very important for you going forward with matches like this, because if you play him against a so-called small team and he does not perform well then everybody is on top of him and everybody is no longer too sure whether the decision [to buy him] was right or wrong.”
The Tshwane giants are next in action on Wednesday, 10 August, versus TS Galaxy at Loftus Versfeld stadium as games come thick and fast in the new season. Masandawana will be keen to maintain their perfect start early on, as they chase a record-extending sixth title on the trot.
Joy and pain in Soweto
For Soweto sides Chiefs and Pirates, the fortunes were contrasting in the campaign curtain-raiser. The clubs, who ended the previous season in fifth and sixth spot respectively, both have new permanent head coaches in Arthur Zwane and Riveiro.
The two clubs have also reshuffled their playing personnel — in hopes that they can reclaim the glory days and disrupt the Sundowns dominance. However, as Sundowns’ Mngqithi hinted, it will take time for the respective teams to gel.
Pirates were far from emphatic against Swallows, who barely survived relegation last season. Nonetheless, the Sea Robbers did enough to wrestle the full bounty of three points away from the Dube Birds.
The Buccaneers’ bitter rivals Chiefs were not so efficient against bogey side Royal AM.
Following Royal ramming Amakhosi 1-0, courtesy of impressive defender Ricardo Nascimento scoring as early as the second minute, Zwane’s side is now winless in four matches against Thwihli Thwahla. Three of those have been losses for the Naturena-based outfit.
Zwane, who handed debuts to four of the club’s new signings in Yusuf Maart, Siyethemba Sithebe, Ashley du Preez and Zitha Kwinika — said he was not concerned by the loss as he felt his side had done enough to win the match.
“We did everything in terms of creating the goal-scoring opportunities. The ball was not going to go in. That was the unfortunate part. The boys executed themselves very well in terms of creating more chances. If the goalkeeper could be the man of the match it means we were unfortunate,” said Zwane after the loss.
Pirates will now travel to Stellenbosch on Wednesday, while Chiefs will entertain Maritzburg at the FNB stadium the day before. DM