Thursday Dec 29, 2022. 12:00
South Africa’s DStv Premiership resumes after an almost nine week break with eight matches on December 30 and 31, headlined by the heavyweight meeting of Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.
The league wrapped up it’s pre-World Cup phase on October 30, leaving reigning champions Sundowns at the top of the log and enjoying a five-point advantage (with a game in hand) over nearest chasers Richards Bay – the newly promoted KwaZulu-Natal club have been the surprise package thus far, basing their success on a parsimonious defence which has shipped just six goals in 13 matches.
SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs, Pirates, Chippa United, AmaZulu and Golden Arrows round out the top eight. Royal AM and Stellenbosch make up the lower mid-table, followed by a relegation bun fight from positions 11 through 16, with Marumo Gallants, TS Galaxy, Cape Town City, Swallows FC, Sekhukhune United and Maritzburg United covered by just two points.
Sundowns will look to extend their lead to eight points straight away on Friday afternoon when they welcome Pirates to Loftus Versfeld for a blockbuster clash.
‘Downs coach Rulani Mokwena has detailed some of the team’s preparations in what has effectively been a second pre-season: “[We will] try to also get a little bit closer to game rhythm and match intensity. There’s still lots of work to be done for sure, but I’m looking forward to working together for a couple of days and being together and trying to push the team’s cohesion and togetherness.”
Friday also features Cape Town City chasing a victory at home to Royal AM, a relegation six-pointer between Maritzburg United and TS Galaxy, as well as SuperSport United looking to claim a seventh win of the league season when they welcome Marumo Gallants to Lucas Moripe Stadium – if they can get their mentality right, according to coach Gavin Hunt.
“It’s all about the mentality at this point because this is a different scenario, this has never happened before,” he explained.
“Normally we would play until the 21st (of December) and we start back again in the middle of January or even at the end of January if we have the [Africa] Nations Cup.
“So for us, the mentality is going to have to be right because as you can see, everyone around you is on holiday in terms of family and friends but we had a two-week break and that was our Christmas. But we should be fine.”
Saturday features Richards Bay and Sekhukhune United hosting Swallows FC and AmaZulu respectively, but all eyes will be on Golden Arrows v Kaizer Chiefs at the Moses Mabhida Stadium – with the Amakhosi under pressure to get off to a flying start in this phase of the campaign and put up a credible title challenge.
“We’ve got a few friendlies lined up and these will help with us with our fitness levels before we play that competitive match on New Year’s eve against Arrows,” said Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane. “We hope that no one picks up any [injuries] so we are ready for that particular game.”
DStv Premiership fixtures, 30-31 December
Friday 30 December
15:30: Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates
17:30: Stellenbosch FC v Chippa United
17:30: Cape Town City v Royal AM
19:30: Maritzburg United v TS Galaxy
19:30: SuperSport United v Marumo Gallants
Saturday 31 December
15:30: Richards Bay v Swallows FC
15:30: Golden Arrows v Kaizer Chiefs
17:30: Sekhukhune United v AmaZulu