Time and again, Mamelodi Sundowns have been right there. The big spenders of the domestic game head into another Absa Premiership season with hopes high and ambitions boundless.
Trophies really ought to come relatively easy to a side with the spending power of Patrice Motsepe. It is hard to imagine another South African outfit dissecting Kaizer Chiefs the way the Brazilians did in the MTN8 last weekend, a powerhouse performance from a squad again packed with potential.
And yet, so many times for Brazilians fans, this flattery has turned into a not-so-sweet deception. In the nine seasons so far since Motsepe pumped his billions into the club, Sundowns have managed just two league titles, the last way back in 2007. The Brazilians’ last piece of silverware was the 2008 Nedbank Cup.
Last season, former Dutch midfielder maestro Johan Neeskens had the club flying high in title contention for much of the season. But in the final straight, Neeskens’ side suddenly lost their way, their early season goal gluts conspicuous by their absence as Orlando Pirates stormed through to claim the ultimate prize.
Sundowns’ campaign, meanwhile, ended in the ignominy of a 3-0 hammering by Tshwane rivals SuperSport in the Nedbank Cup final.
So will this be the season where Sundowns finally produce results to go with their undoub-ted talent? As evidenced by the demolition of the Amakhosi, the early signs are good.
Sundowns look to have bought well in the off-season, Tebogo Langerman and Edward Manqele both netting on their debuts against Chiefs.
Eleazar Rodgers should also bulk up a forward line missing Katlego Mphela through injury for the next few months.
The Brazilians certainly ought to have too much sparkle this evening for Absa Premiership newcomers Chippa United. The Cape side did brilliantly to make it into top flight football via the play-offs, and in new coach Manqoba Mngqithi, they have a mentor with plenty of Absa Premiership experience, albeit his reputation took a bit of a battering in a disastrous spell at AmaZulu.
Clearly on slightly less of a budget than Sundowns, Chippa have had to be clever in the transfer market this season, and it remains to be seen if the likes of Larry Cohen and Msuleki Mvalo can provide them with defensive solidity.
Mfundo Shumana, meanwhile, should bring some creativity to the Chippa midfield.
Sundowns, however, have to be buzzing after their MTN8 triumph, and could also benefit this season from some much-needed continuity, with Neeskens retained as coach, despite his failure to pick up any silverware. That, in Patrice Motsepe terms, is something of a miracle.
Elsewhere in the Absa Premiership today, Kaizer Chiefs have to bounce back from their MTN8 humiliation, as they travel to AmaZulu. Stuart Baxter can take some solace from the fact that his defence surely cannot perform much worse than they did against Sundowns.
New signings Morgan Gould and Eric Matoho have been left with plenty to prove, while Chiefs right back Sibonsio Gaxa misses the game with the injury he picked up against the Brazilians.
Chiefs should, at least, have Siphiwe Tshabalala back from injury for the trip to Durban.
Today: Black Leopards v Bloemfon-tein Celtic, Peter Mokaba Stadium; Free State Stars v Bidvest Wits, Goble Park (both 3pm); AmaZulu v Kaizer Chiefs, Moses Mabhida Stadium (6pm); Mamelodi Sundowns v Chippa United, Lucas Moripe Stadium (8.15pm)
Tomorrow: Platinum Stars v Moroka Swallows, Royal Bafokeng; University of Pretoria v Maritzburg United, Tuks Stadium (both 3pm)