Unpredictable season beckons
Local league football resumes this week.
Sundowns finished 2011 on a high with a 2-0 win over Free State Stars, tightening their grip at the top of the log. Despite a long break, the Brazilians should not raise much of a sweat against AmaZulu, whom they visit at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday night.
Coach Gavin Hunt believes the top teams will pull away from the rest in the second half of the league.
United were perched at the top until a rude awakening when they lost three in a row against Bloemfontein Celtic, Sundowns and Pirates.
Now they have to make up lost ground and start with a tricky encounter against Free State Stars at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
Despite their inconsistency in the first half of the season, Chiefs are still very much in the running for the crown. But the pressure will be enormous on the players and coach. Chiefs also have a knack of spoiling the party for others. So they will be a danger team.
Coach Gordon Igesund says it will be tougher this season and he is focusing on consolidating his top eight position.
The psychological scars of near-relegation from last season have almost been erased and the Birds look intent on success.
Led by multi-championship winning Igesund, Swallows are dark horses in the race for league honours.
The champions are in a modest place - for them. At least they should have an easy start to the second half of the season when they meet lowly Black Leopards at Orlando Stadium. Like his rival at Chiefs, Pirates coach Julio Leal has already felt the pressure from club boss Irvin Khoza building up on him.
Free State Stars
If they can sustain the form shown in the first half of the season, Stars could make a strong push for the league. Coach Steve Komphela has been challenged to deliver the league at Stars, but that might just be too big for him.
Let's hope they are not again victims of dubious refereeing decisions, which cost them earlier in the season.
Ajax Cape Town
Ajax flattered themselves last season and seem to have lost their Midas touch.
Yet they are still in the top eight and the talk is that their problems up front are now in the past following the acquisition of Nigerian star George Akpabio, who received his work permit this week.
The club thrives on its outstanding development programme and they will look to some of their younger talent to survive in the top eight.
They have already learnt to live without star Sifiso Myeni, who was out with injury towards the end of the first half of the season.
A good cup run has heightened expectations on the team to impress this season.
Wednesday's full fixtures
Kick-off for all games: 7.30pm
AmaZulu vs Sundowns (Moses Mabhida Stadium), Orlando Pirates vs Black Leopards (Orlando Stadium); Ajax Cape Town vs Platinum Stars (Cape Town Stadium); SuperSport United vs Free State Stars (Lucas Moripe Stadium); Jomo Cosmos vs Kaizer Chiefs (Nelson Mandela Stadium); Bloemfontein Celtic vs Golden Arrows (Free State Stadium); Bidvest Wits vs Maritzburg United (Bidvest Stadium).