Who’ll Win The Race For Second Place?
With just eight games to go, the race for second place is heating up in the DStv Premiership, with Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs chasing SuperSport United, while Cape Town City have an outside chance.
By now it is widely accepted that run-away leaders Mamelodi Sundowns will lift their sixth successive league title, with the only question being the ‘when’ rather than ‘if ’.
However, the title of the ‘best of the rest’ is still up for grabs and could make for an interesting run-in of the 2022/23 campaign.
Over the last five years, that title has gone to Orlando Pirates in 2017/18 (55 points) and 2018/19 (57 points), Kaizer Chiefs in 2019/20 (57 points), AmaZulu in 2020/21 (54 points) and Cape Town City in 2021/22 (49 points). The fact that there have been four different teams in the runners-up spot also proves the fact that there hasn’t been one dominant rival to the Masandawana in recent years.
This season again, none of the traditional big teams lived up to expectations, as Sundowns have opened a 17-point lead to second-placed SuperSport United, while both Soweto giants sit 22 points behind the log leaders! Last season’s runners-up, Cape Town City follow with 23 points behind Rulani Mokwena’s men after their 2-2 with Marumo Gallants earlier in the week.
Apart from Gavin Hunt’s side, the other three “title chasers” are closer to bottom-placed Gallants than to Sundowns. But enough of that. The race for second place surely is ON!
HUNT TO UPSET SOWETO GIANTS?
Currently, Gavin Hunt and his revived Matsatsantsa side are leading the race for second place with 39 points from 22 games. The four-time Premier Soccer League winner is well-experienced in the top half of the table and even though SuperSport might not always be as pleasing on the eye, they have a team that can grind results.
Hunt himself has put emphasis on winning the home games, with SSU still being unbeaten at home in 2022/23. The 58-year-old is also doing his best to not put too much pressure on his players, insisting they will only plan from game to game and not too far ahead.
While Chiefs and Pirates’ focus might be split, with both also still in the Nedbank Cup, Hunt can solely focus on the league after they were knocked out of the Ke Yona Cup by giant killers Dondol Stars. On paper, SuperSport, who collected 15 points since the restart of the DStv Premiership, have the second-easiest run-in, with their upcoming opponents averaging spot 9.5 on the log (see table).
Last eight opponents of CAFCL chasers. CT City have since drawn 2-2 with Gallants.
PIRATES NEED TO TURN PERFORMANCES INTO RESULTS
Meanwhile, the pressure is completely different at both Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. Unlike Arthur Zwane, though, Jose Riveiro has already lifted silverware in his first campaign, which has given him some leeway. But the MTN8 success now already feels far in the past and a recent Soweto double by Chiefs over the Buccaneers has brought the Sea Robbers back down to earth.
The Spaniard knows that he can’t afford to finish outside of the CAF inter-club spots, ideally in second place, while the Nedbank Cup trophy is also still up for grabs.
Pirates have scored the most goals (16) among the four contenders for second spot, but picked up just 15 points since the restart of the league. Their five wins are nearly matched by four defeats, although two of them were against Sundowns, one against Chiefs and one against CT City.
Despite facing these upper-half sides recently, Pirates’ upcoming games are not getting any easier, as their opponents in the last eight games have an average position of seventh on the log, making it the most difficult run-in on paper.
ONLY CONSISTENCY CAN LEAD CHIEFS TO PROMISED LAND
Kaizer Chiefs on the other hand have won just four of their nine league games since the restart of the DStv Premiership. They are also the only of the second-place chasers with a negative goal difference over this run, having scored just eight times (half as many as Pirates), while conceding nine. Their 13 points are also the least of the four teams in contention for second spot.
Arthur Zwane has continuously insisted that the 2022/23 campaign is a season of change and his team are one in progress rather than the finished product. However, with the club’s trophy drought ever so hanging over the heads of the Amakhosi, Zwane has also set reaching the CAF Champions League as a target for the rest of the campaign.
Out of the four chasers, the Glamour Boys have the easiest outstanding eight games – at least on paper – with Chiefs’ upcoming opponents sitting in an average log position of 11th place.
TINKLER’S CITY WITH AN OUTSIDE CHANCE
Cape Town City have done well to be in contention again after a horrible first half of the campaign, when they only picked up their first win in their sixth league game. However, they’ve now collected 20 points since the restart of the DStv Premiership, more than any of the other chasers, with Tinkler also focussing more on results again, rather than trying to win with improved football.
Their new mettle will be tested, though, as City – along with Pirates – have the toughest run-in. Their upcoming eight opponents sit in an average position of 7.4 on the log and Tinkler’s side also still face the Buccaneers and Chiefs away from home.
However, City already suffered a serious blow to their second place chase after dropping points against bottom-placed Gallants earlier in the league and now only have seven games left to repeat their finish from last season.
This article was brought to you by DStv and first appeared in Edition 95 of the iDiski Times newspaper.
WHO DO YOU THINK WILL FINISH IN SECOND PLACE?
Leave a Reply