#BabizeBonke is back and what a way to reintroduce one of the top leagues on the continent! The DStv Premiership made its return on Friday with the champions Mamelodi Sundowns at home to last season’s runners up AmaZulu. The only missing ingredient were SA’s colourful and boisterous diski fans due to health restrictions.
But SuperSport made sure that none would miss any of the action. For the first time in history, all eight opening round fixtures were televised across SuperSport with other matches available on Showmax Pro. There were no real shock results in the opening round, which produced a modest 12 goals.
Downs still the team to beat
The champions Sundowns went into this with caution given the threat posed by AmaZulu, who pushed them right to the end last season. But as expected by the “yellow nation” they continued from where they left off last season as they brushed aside Usuthu in this tightly contested match.
Themba Zwane got the first goal of the season from the penalty spot. It was his sixth goal against Usuthu in the last four matches. This Sundowns side proved they are still the team to beat this season and their rivals will have to up their game to stay in the race until the last day.
Playing their first match without departed coach Josef Zinnbauer, the Buccaneers got off to a rocky start. The question was how they will handle the transition in the coaching department. Two minutes into the game and it was Stellenbosch FC in the lead. Junior Mendieta provided the pass as Waseem Isaacs fired from just outside the penalty area and his shot took a wicked deflection off Thulani Hlatshwayo and beat goalkeeper Richard Ofori at his near post.
Deon Hotto steadied the ship with a fantastic strike from a free-kick on 18 minutes, then a setback for the hosts when Ntsikelelo Nyauza was sent for an early shower four minutes before the break. Just how costly that red card was became evident at fulltime. The Buccaneers looked set for maximum points when Goodman Mosele made it 2-1 on 49 minutes but Judas Moseamedi struck a debut goal on 55 minutes to ensure a share of the spoils.
Probably the most entertaining game of the weekend, and not surprising as it was a local derby between Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United. Goals from Siboniso Conco (55 minutes) and Siphamandla Sabelo (68 minutes) gave Arrows the victory, with debutant Brandon Theron scoring for Maritzburg on 87 minutes.
But it was activities away from the pitch that generated more talk for KZN club Maritzburg. While the team was fighting for the points on the field, off the field the officials were fighting off speculation that the club had been sold. It is not the first time that such rumours have been circulated but this time it was more forceful. And the club had to fire back.
New coach, new signings and a renewed sense of optimism in the Amakhosi camp. But credit to TS Galaxy who showed just how much work Stuart Baxter still must do to get his Kaizer Chiefs battle ready. Only one shot on target for Chiefs and not surprising as it ended 0-0 in the last game of the round on Sunday.
“Going into the first game you know very little because you’ve got very little to go on,” Baxter said. “Our quality was too poor, especially on the breakdown.”
Sekhukhune United played their first-ever DStv Premiership match at home to Chippa United and pushed the visitors all the way. But they will have to improve how they deal with set-pieces as they were rocked by Veluyeke Zulu on 16 minutes following a corner for Chippa.
For Gavin Hunt, this game marked his return to the dugout following his departure from Kaizer Chiefs towards the end of last season. It was a happy return for Hunt in his 901st career game and he will hope for more of the same in the coming games as his current bosses are the most trigger happy in this league.
The other newcomers, albeit in name only — Royal AM — got a taste of what is to come in the big league. Swallows FC left it very late, in fact the final minute of the referee’s optional time, for the winner against Royal AM.