champs get ball rolling

LET the games begin.

LET the games begin.

This is the moment soccer fans across the country have been waiting for with bated breath.

Tonight marks the kickoff of the Absa Premiership 2009-10 season, which is set to be energy-sapping. The season will be short because of the 2010 World Cup and clubs will have to pull off performances of firm commitment to surmount the challenges.

No wonder many sides frequented the transfer markets for quality players in the close season.

Reigning champions SuperSport United kick off the campaign in Pietemaritzburg at 8 tonight against relegation survivors Maritzburg United at Woodburn Stadium.

Gavin Hunt's side are hoping to win their third consecutive championship and they will want to start the defence of their title with a bang by beating The Team of Choice. But Matsatsantsa are not likely to find it easy against the Maritzburg side. They are motivated by their neighbours AmaZulu, who bombed Hunt's side out of the prestigious MTN8 Cup at Chatsworth Stadium on Tuesday.

The Tshwane club remained in KwaZulu-Natal where they were joined by new recruit Petrus Mahlatsi on Wednesday. Siyabonga Nkosi, Tebogo Langerman and Jabulani Maluleke are also likely to make their Premiership debut for the visitors.

It remains to be seen how Maritzburg United fares this season after coach Gordon Igesund stressed that his side will not come near the relegation zone.

Igesund is also happy with his new recruits, who he believes will help the team challenge for trophies. They include Felix Obada, Rudolf Bester, Byrone Hendricks and James Madidilane.

The match that many fans are waiting for on Sunday is part two between revenge-seeking Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town at Newlands.

Bucs go into this tie desperate to erase their midweek memories after the Urban Warriors beat them 2-1 at Ellis Park Stadium in Wafa Wafa. They will still be without their reliable Brazilian defender Eduardo Ferreira, who is suspended, but new players such as Diyo Sibisi and Lance Davids could add to Pirates' woes.Bucs coach Ruud Krol could be forced to consider his new arrivals for the match, including Thembinkosi "Terror" Fanteni, Phenyo Mongala, Ndumiso Mabena, Gert Schalkwyk, Andile Jele, Blaise Kiaku and Dennis Masina.

Another defeat to Ajax in less than a week would be a bitter pill to swallow for The Ghost.

Chiefs, who had a good pre-season after capturing the Vodacom Challenge, host Santos at Orlando Stadium as part of tomorrow's line-up.

Premiership returnees Jomo Cosmos host Platinum Stars at Rand Stadium and league upstarts Mpumalanga Black Leopards face Mamelodi Sundowns at Super Stadium in Atteridgeville tomorrow.