Pundits back Bucs
Orlando Pirates are yet again favourites to retain their SA Premiership title, according to former players and coaches, with Mamelodi Sundowns expected to push them right down to the wire.
The Premier League season kicks off tonight and champions Pirates have been singled out by pundits, who have also warned that striker Benni McCarthy will need to stay injury-free for the Buccaneers to keep the trophy.
"It obviously takes longer for players over 30 to recover from injuries. But it's important for Pirates for Benni to stay fit and ready to score the goals to help them defend the title," said Brian Baloyi, a former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper.
Baloyi has picked the Buccaneers to be the team to beat this season, adding that while rivals Chiefs, Sundowns and SuperSport United will always be in the running, it "looks like Pirates are clear favourites once again".
Pirates open their season with a home game against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Orlando Stadium, with the other match tonight seeing Matsatsantsa travelling to the Mother City to face Ajax Cape Town.
Isaac "Shakes" Kungwane, Baloyi's teammate at Chiefs in the 1990s, also believes Pirates can win the league, but chose Moroka Swallows, last season's runners-up, to repeat the feat.
Kungwane, now a TV soccer analyst, said: "Pirates have got enough depth to cover each and every position. And they are doing it by signing experienced players."
He said Chiefs's 4-1 defeat to Sundowns in the MTN8 this past weekend showed that there was still "something missing in that Chiefs team", but that shouldn't cloud their entire season.
Sundowns still have a believer in former coach Ian Gorowa, who yesterday said keeping Johan Neeskens at the helm was the right move by club president Patrice Motsepe.
But Gorowa noted that Sundowns lack the "winning mentality that Pirates have".
And finally, Lucas Radebe, a long-time admirer of Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter, believes the Englishman will bring the glory days back to Naturena.
"They have bought well and I think those players have got what it takes to win trophies for Chiefs this season," said the former Bafana skipper. "I think they have such a good motivator in Stuart and if they can stay disciplined, they can win cups."