Five things we learned this Absa Premiership season

Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

(This article has been updated to reflect the ruling against Ajax Cape Town for fielding Tendai Ndoro; a verdict which saw them lose nine points and be relegated)

The Absa Premiership regular season has come to a close, with Mamelodi Sundowns crowned champions, Ajax Cape Town relegated to the National First Division, and Platinum Stars battling for their lives in the Promotion/Relegation play-offs.

It has in many ways been a strange campaign, with perennial title challengers Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United sucked into the relegation mix, and unfancied Maritzburg United and Free State Stars confounding the critics.

KweséESPN looks at five things we have learnt this season.

Sundowns are the biggest club in the country
Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates have for decades claimed to be the top clubs in the country given their trophy success and the pulling power of the football they played.

But that is seriously under threat, with Sundowns clearly the dominant force in the Premier Soccer League, and with a seemingly growing fanbase that have become more vocal as the years have gone on.

Since the formation of the PSL ahead of the 1996/97 season, Sundowns have won the Championship on eight occasions. During that same period, Chiefs and Pirates have four league wins each. The only other club to have won the league more than once in that time is SuperSport United (three).

The financial backing afforded to Sundowns through owner Patrice Motsepe, and the fact that they were crowned African champions two years ago, all add to Sundowns' status as the elite club in the country.

Good administration is key
Ajax Cape Town's troubles this season are a sign of the importance of good administration off the pitch.

Take away the fact that the club have contravened FIFA regulations with their acquisition of Tendai Ndoro, and paid the ultimate price, but there has also been a systematic weakening of their squad over the last few seasons.

The club have been something of an enigma this campaign, with the second best home record in the league behind Pirates, but managing just four points from 45 available on the road, which is why they find themselves in the play-offs.

The club are in some ways hamstrung by their policy of promoting youth in that they push teenagers into the first team too soon, but with mother club Ajax Amsterdam looking for the next big thing, they have little choice.

But the acquisitions in the transfer market in recent years have been problematic. Ajax made 22 signings this past season, but only three of those -- two of which were loan signings -- have made a real impact in centre-back Mario Booysen, and forwards Yannick Zakri and Fagrie Lakay.

There are far too many 'misses' there, and the blame for that has to lie at the feet of management.

Security needs to be made a priority by the PSL
Attendances at league games have been steadily dropping down the years and there are a number of reasons for that -- but in part because fans do not feel safe at matches anymore.

Last season was the infamous pitch invasion by Pirates fans in their record 6-0 loss to Mamelodi Sundowns, and this season there were issues involving Chiefs fans twice in a matter of weeks. The second of those, in the Nedbank Cup semifinal, was particularly frightening, causing government to step in and open their own inquiry.

In questions in parliament, it came to light that the operational plan for the fixture was only signed the day after the game and that there was inadequate security personnel for what was a high-profile fixture at a ground in Durban where Chiefs fans have caused trouble before.

Authorities are taking the latest incidents seriously, but fans need more than lip-service to feel they can take their family to matches.

Are coaches too cautious?
The fact that 88 games out of 240 (37 percent) finished as draws this season shows a number of things: there are few 'easy' games in the league, and that some quality is missing in being able to put opponents away.

With one round of matches to go, 23 percent of games in the Spanish La Liga have been drawn, while at the end of the season in England the figure was at 26 percent. The global average is somewhere around 25 percent, so for the Premiership to be heading closer to 40 percent shows it is well out of kilter.

The fear of losing does sometimes override the will to win and in many instances that is an issue in South Africa. But to make the product more marketable, fans want to see victories and exciting football, and that is where the Premiership needs to be headed.

Having no winners does not make for great entertainment.

Finishing remains South Africa's Achilles Heel
The Golden Boot in this year's Premiership was shared between Percy Tau (Sundowns) and Rodney Ramagalela (Polokwane City), who netted just 11 goals each, the second lowest in PSL history for the top-scorers.

There were fewer goals scored in this Premiership season (489) than any other year and, at an average of two goals per game, well below most leagues around the world.

Yes, defences are more organised these days, but there is also a lack of creative players with real quality in the league.

But in reality the low goal-count is not for a lack of chances created, it is a failure of forwards to capitalise on them.

With some rare exceptions, this has been a South African problem for decades and perhaps the biggest factor in holding the national team back. Certainly Bafana Bafana generally set up quite well defensively and are able to hold their own in midfield, but a lack of scoring touch in the opposition box is their biggest issue.

And you could see it every week in the league, with coaches giving up moaning about it about a third of the way into the season, so much did they sound like broken records.

There is no easy fix; the country can only pin their hopes on young forwards like Lebo Mothiba, Ryan Moon and Lyle Foster to break the mould.