PSL’s top dogs have to split focus


March and April will be a big test for Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs who also have to juggle their CAF Champions League commitments with their PSL obligations, while Ajax Cape Town and Bidvest Wits will be doing battle in the CAF Confederations Cup. Chiefs, Wits and Ajax have one foot in the next round after convincing wins away from home in the first legs. Now they need to wrap things up at home on Saturday.

The Brazilians on the other hand have to reverse a 1-0 defeat from Zimbabwe’s Chicken Inn when they host the side at Lucas Moripe Stadium. Sundowns are however in a better position than the other three clubs domestically, not only do they sit at the summit of the Premiership but they also have a record six league titles in the PSL era. Their closest rivals have four. In the three seasons that Pitso Mosimane has started with the Brazilians, he has won a trophy in each campaign and became the first South African coach to win all the domestic trophies on offer.

His eyes are now on becoming the first South African coach to win the Champions League. His friend Steve Komphela might not have such an illustrious CV but his biggest task is to move away from Stuart Baxter’s shadow as the club’s grip on their league title is loosened with each passing round.

If he can guide Amakhosi to the group stage of the Champions League, that would be one way of achieving that. Despite being the last South African side to win a continental competition, Amakhosi have had an on-and-off relationship with these tournaments.

In 2005 they were slapped with a three-year ban after refusing to play in the Confederation Cup when they were demoted out of the Champions League. In 2014 the side sent their assistant coach Doctor Khumalo to Abidjan when they took on Asec Mimosas, also after being eliminated from the Champions League. They lost that match. But that’s because in both instances they were chasing the league which became their No 1 priority. As fate would have it, Komphela’s men are likely to take on the Ivoirians in the first round of the Champions League – another opportunity for Komphela to succeed where Baxter didn’t.

But for Ajax, the Confederation Cup offers their young squad a great learning experience. And don’t forget they have Roger de Sa at the helm.

He is the last coach to guide a South African side to the final of the Champions League and can only realistically just finish in the top eight in the league. But they have the MTN8 trophy.

For Wits and Gavin Hunt, their biggest drive is to finish better than the third they have reached in his last two seasons with the club. In his third year, Hunt is yet to deliver the silverware the club expected from him. That’s why he has been dismissive of the Confederation Cup, wanting to win something with only two trophies remaining.

“People don’t understand that it’s difficult because of various reasons. We have to rotate the squad. Believe you me, the other three teams will do the same. If you look at the fixtures in March and April, if anyone goes through – I don’t know how we are going to do it,” Hunt said.

The Star

Original source: PSL’s top dogs have to split focus