It took Bidvest Wits FC 96 years to become South African champions for the first time, and now they are on course to win a second title just two seasons later.

The Johannesburg outfit lead Orlando Pirates by three points as the second half of the season begins this weekend, but have no African commitments unlike three title rivals.

South African clubs have consistently struggled to excel simultaneously in local and international competitions and this could give Wits a crucial edge.

Known as the Clever Boys, the club play in a university campus with the 5 000-seat ground bordered by a planetarium and the Johannesburg-Pretoria highway.

AFP Sport highlights five issues in the richest national football league in Africa, with clubs contesting 30 million rand in prize money.

After many predictable title chases, the scene is set for an exciting second half of the season with Wits, Pirates and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns looking strongest.

Wits are built around a strong rear-guard that includes national squad regulars in goalkeeper Darren Keet and defenders Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Sifiso Hlanti.

Pirates and Sundowns have to play six CAF Champions’ League group matches each by mid-March, including time-consuming trips to west and North Africa, and that could count against them.

The surprise side among the championship challengers is Polokwane City from the capital of the Northern Province, who lay fourth, seven points behind Wits.

They are a club without big-name players who attract modest crowds and usually battle against relegation. They finished 12th last season.

But a pre-season change of coaches, with Slovak Jozef Vukusic taking, over has dramatically improved a team built around 36-year-old playmaker Jabu  Maluleke.

Maritzburg United were the revelations of last season, finishing fourth in the Premiership and reaching the South African FA Cup final under 37-year-old coach Fadlu Davids.

But halfway through this season Untied are bottom of the table with only one victory, five goals and 11 points from 14 matches and Davids has been sacked.