The new Absa Premiership season kicks off on Tuesday with some of the pre-season favourites declaring themselves ready for the 2016/17 challenge.
Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns will start the campaign as favourites after their lop-sided title win last season when they won by a record 14 points.
However, Soweto giants and the Brazilians’ big Gauteng rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will be desperate for an improvement on the past 12 months when they both failed to win silverware.
The likes of Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United cannot be counted out and will also be keen to make an early impression with positive results on matchday one.
With Sundowns not in action this week – they have a CAF Champions League commitment – all eyes will be on the pretenders for the title.
The highlight of the fixtures takes place on Tuesday when the Students entertain Amakhosi at Bidvest Stadium.
Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, whose side only came fifth last season, believes they are ready for the season and has targeted nothing less than victory.
“The mood in the team is full of high expectations,” he said. “We are working hard as a team and things are looking good for the season.
“Everyone is raring to go, starting with Wits. We are ready to do well this season.”
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt managed to lead his side to runners-up last year, and he knows the importance of hitting the ground running.
“We would like to have a good start,” he said.
Pirates, meanwhile, will be desperate to improve on their seventh-placed positioning last year.
Their captain is Oupa Manyisa and he insists they are not under pressure to deliver, despite demands of their fans.
“No we are not under pressure,” he says. “But the fact that we did not win any trophies last season is on the back of our minds.
“We want to remedy that scenario this season for the club and for our supporters.”
The Buccaneers are at home to Lamontville Golden Arrows at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Dan Malesela has built an impressive unit at Chippa United. Many consider the Chilli Boys, who host Free State Stars at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Tuesday, as outsiders for the title and the coach himself has not ruled out a challenge.
“We are ready to compete, and will challenge for all trophies on offer this season,” he says.
Other fixtures on Tuesday will see the new Cape Town City franchise play Polokwane City at Cape Town Stadium, while reigning National First Division champions Baroka FC take their top-flight bow at home to Ajax Cape Town – a match to be played at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Apart from Pirates’ fixture on Wednesday, there is also Platinum Stars, last season’s surprise third-placed finishers, up against SuperSport at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Dikwena coach Cavin Johnson also wants to start well.
“It’s important that we start on a good note,” he added. “In 2015/16 season we started well. We started with a draw against Mamelodi Sundowns and it was a big boost for the players because they played well against a so called big team. We need to start on a good footing.”
The final fixture for midweek sees Bloemfontein Celtic host Maritzburg United at Dr. Molemela Stadium. Both teams will be desperate to start well after massively disappointing past seasons.