MTN8 offers redemption road

The captains of last season’s best teams gathered in Park Station in Johannesburg today to officially introduce this term’s MTN8.

After the elation of enjoying a World Cup and then the pain of no football, the PSL is back this Saturday followed by the knockout competition the weekend after. The MTN8 represents team’s first opportunity to bring silverware home and solidify a winning mentality for the second half of the campaign.

At least in theory. It didn’t quite work for the defending champions, SuperSport United, who painfully trudged through their games after lifting the trophy, ultimately costing Eric Tinkler his job. Kaitano Tembo brought the positive performances back to the camp but Matsatsantsa still had to wait until the last day of the season to confirm their relegation escape.

“Sadly it turned out badly last season,” said captain Dean Furman on the sidelines of today’s event. “We won the MTN and maybe at that stage the legs just felt a bit heavier … We looked at the season and we were seven, eight games behind everyone. We knew we had a lot of catch up and it just didn’t work out to the way we wanted it last season. This season we have to maintain our focus.”

Earlier, Lucky Lekgwathi had joyously boasted that he remains the only captain to defend the MTN8 – Orlando Pirates winning in 2010 and 2011. It’s a gloat that Furman would love to silence.

“We want to get that back-to-back,” he said. “We did it in Nedbank (Cup) and now we want to do it here. We want to be that team that starts making its own records. We’ve done that in the last few years and now we have the opportunity to start writing our own history again.”

Kaizer Chiefs were always available to keep SuperSport company in the ranks of the disappointing last season. Coach Steve Komphela was unable to end his drought in what would turn out to be his last year at the helm, sending fans’ frustration levels roaring up.

“Pre-season has not been easy because with the new coach and the philosophy – we’re trying to work on the team and improve it,” defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele said. “It’s going to be difficult, let’s go and see if we can add one or two trophies. I think it’s about time as players as well we raise the bar a little bit. The club deserves trophies.”

The final weeks of the season saw Amakhosi positively collapse and hopes of catching Mamelodi Sundowns in the PSL extinguished. Fans reacted in angry fashion, more than once, and the club have since had to face repercussions. It’s a brutal reminder that the yellow-and-gold twelfth man will not tolerate mediocrity. Mphahlele is desperate to give them something to cheer.

“We’ve been talking, talking, talking. I think it’s about time we actually show them on the pitch. We’ve been giving it everything and if we lose giving it everything then we can say so. We’ll show it on the pitch. There’s no use talking and going on social media and writing we’re going to win the treble and we’re going to win this. We have to show on the pitch. We’re prepared because we’re hurting from last season but we will go again.”

The full list of list of fixtures are as follows:

Sundowns vs Golden Arrows

Kaizer Chiefs vs Free State Stars

Orlando Pirates vs Supersport United

Maritzburg United vs Cape Town City

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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