The real run-in to the end of the Premier League season‚ and what might be the tightest of finishes between leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and second-placed Orlando Pirates‚ starts on Wednesday night.
After a protracted break from the league for an international date and the Nedbank Cup‚ much can depend on the outcome of two big games in the PSL on Wednesday.
Neither Sundowns‚ who lead by a point, have a game in hand and meet Chippa United at Loftus Versfeld‚ nor Pirates‚ who host Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando Stadium‚ will want to drop points.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane appeared to convey the gravity of the stage this seemingly two-horse race is entering, explaining the juggling act he has faced of balancing three competitions while also blending in new signings.
"You always have your key players. Last time‚ to make history [winning the 2015-16 PSL title and 2016 Caf Champions League]‚ we had the ‘CBDs’ [Leonardo Castro‚ Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly as front combination]‚" Mosimane said.
"Now it’s changed. It’s Percy Tau coming up‚ ‘Vila’ [Sibusiso Vilakazi] is taking leadership‚ scoring important goals. Gaston Sirino is coming up slowly‚ leading us. Themba Zwane is there.
"You always have the same guys who‚ when we go to the jungle‚ you have to bring them.
"I’m a bit mad — I look at football differently sometimes. I dropped Hlompho Kekana and Zwane at crucial times‚ when we really wanted the points. I said they must rest.
"There would be a time when we were going to need them. And this is that time.
"Kekana is back. We’ve got Zwane helping us. Tau is leading – we gave him 15 days’ rest after the Champions League game in Rwanda," said Mosimane.
"We dropped Tiyani Mab-unda against SuperSport United‚ a big game. Because we have to have the big guns back.
"They have the experience‚ they can take the pressure‚ they know how difficult it is. They can play three games in a week‚ with travelling.
"It’s not the time when we can ask more from the Aubrey Ngomas‚ Jeremy Brockies and George Lebeses.
"Oupa Manyisa has that experience. But we know it will always be the same boys. We dropped Wayne Arendse for some time‚ Motjeka Madisha was playing‚ but he’s back now.
"We’ve tried to keep Denis Onyango away from the Nedbank Cup. He’s back also. So this is the crucial time and we have the experience.
"And we have the experience of knowing that we might drop the Nedbank Cup‚ we might lose the league‚ we might lose the Champions League — we are forever skating on thin ice [in all three]. If you want to race with us you must also have experience. You can’t drop a point."
Pirates‚ for their part‚ have looked increasingly dynamic under Milutin Sredojevic with a gameplan based on organisation in defence and movement in attack. They‚ too‚ have slowly blended additions such as Mthokizisi Dube‚ Innocent Maela‚ Xola Mlambo and Justin Shonga to existing weaponry‚ and Luvuyo Memela has been in outstanding form.
Yet another epic PSL showdown is shaping up.