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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
South Africa gears up
Fans of South African club Kaizer Chiefs
Kaizer Chiefs fans will be hoping to be celebrating again this season
The new South African season, which kicks off on Wednesday, could be the most competitive in recent years.

For the last decade football in South Africa has been dominated by Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns but other clubs are threatening to break their stranglehold on the league championship.

The awarding of the 2010 World Cup finals to South Africa has proved a major boost to the professional game in the country, now awash with sponsorship and television money.

Clubs are now able to make forays into the international transfer market, evidenced by the purchase of two Venezuelan internationals by Sundowns last month.

The Pretoria club, whose owner Patrice Motsepe is a mining magnate with pretensions of becoming the Roman Abramovich of Africa, won Saturday's Charity Cup at the conclusion of their pre-season preparations, which also included a trip to South Korea for the Peace Cup.

It will be the first full season in charge for Argentine Angel Cappa, who took over midway through the last campaign in which Sundowns finished a disappointing third.

The Kaizer Chiefs clinched the championship on the last day of last season in May from arch rivals Pirates but have since lost key personnel, which has led many to write off their chances of a third successive title.

The Orlando Pirates logo
Orlando Pirates will once again be chasing the title in South Africa

Veteran coach Ted Dumitru retired to be replaced by the German Ernst Middendorp, who turned down a job offer from Bundesliga club Arminia Bielefeld to work in South Africa.

"With the World Cup coming to South Africa in 2010, this is a job well worth taking," he said.

But Chiefs have sold key marksman Collins Mbesuma to English side Portsmouth.

The Zambian striker's 35 goals last season proved the catalyst for the club's storming late run in defence of their title and also their success in the League Cup.

Pirates, by contrast, have beefed up their side after missing out on the championship despite enjoying a nine-point lead four months from the finish.

New signings include Zambian international Davies Mwale and Congo-born Lebo Mbele while Serbian coach Kosta Papic has been given a contract extension.

SuperSport United led a growing list of ambitious pretenders, the Pretoria club were fourth last season as well as winning the national cup.

Bloemfontein Celtic and Moroka Swallows are another two of those with an outside chance but have yet to win a championship title in the professional era.

Wednesday's season-opening match in Cape Town pits two unpredictable teams in Ajax Cape Town and Jomo Cosmos.

Ajax's youthful side are involved in the last eight of the African Champions League but their threadbare squad is not expected to maintain a consistent challenge for league honours.

South Africa's will finish in May next year although there will be a six-week break in January and February to allow the country's national team to participate in the African Cup of Nations finals.


SEE ALSO
Kaizer Chiefs appoint new boss
28 Jun 05 |  African
Chiefs hold Pirates
30 Apr 05 |  African


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