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Five-star Sundowns in a class of their own in the Premiership

Neo Maema of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Thamsanqa Mkhize of Cape Town City during the DStv Premiership match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 27 April 2022. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Neo Maema of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Thamsanqa Mkhize of Cape Town City during the DStv Premiership match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 27 April 2022. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Apr 28, 2022

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Cape Town - Despite being held to a draw by a stubborn Cape Town City FC outfit at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday evening, Mamelodi Sundowns secured a fifth consecutive DStv Premiership title with four games left to play.

After 26 games, there was broad daylight between Sundowns (58 points) and the second-placed Royal AM, who after the same number of games were 13 points adrift on 45. In every other aspect, Sundowns were runaway winners. They scored 50 goals which is 13 more than the next best team Royal AM. They have a goal difference of 36, and the next best is Royal AM's 14.

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There is every prospect of finishing the season with 70 points if they win their four remaining games. However, it will not be good enough to break the record of 71 points which Sundowns set in the 2015-2016 season under then coach Pitso Mosimane.

Sundowns' latest conquest is a second title for the coaching triumvirate of Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela. They were installed just before the start of last season when Mosimane joined Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

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The fifth consecutive DStv Premiership title burst started in the 2017/2018 season and continued in the 2018/2019, 2019/2020, 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 seasons. To date, the 2020/2021 season was the most prolific because Sundowns won with 70 points. The team will need nine points from the remaining four points to better that mark.

Sundowns have had an extraordinary workload because of the CAF Champions League and extended runs in the Cup competitions. At various stages of the season they were often playing twice a week. Their players also coped with the added workload of playing for Bafana Bafana. Many in the national team were drawn from Sundowns. They also had players in other national teams like Peter Shalulile playing for Namibia.

Off the field, Sundowns also have no equal in the country. They went to great lengths to ensure traveling on the continent was reduced to the bare minimum even though it was costly. They chartered flights when available flights were drawn out because it took in two or three stops to their destination for Caf matches.

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They also showed great enterprise by securing an accommodation and training venue in Alexandria, Egypt, when they played Sudan’s El Merreikh and Al Ahly in the space of a week in North Africa. As it turned out, it was great preparation for defeating the Champion League champions in their Cairo backyard.

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The accomplishments of Sundowns may also strengthen the argument that local coaches are best equipped to deliver success in the PSL. Over the years, however, most Premiership titles have been won by foreign-born coaches, and it is especially true at Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, who collectively have 21 titles since the advent of pro soccer in the country in 1971 when the NPSL came into being.

This biggest shot in the arm of late for Sundowns is the appointment of Flemming Berg as their new sporting director. The Danish national replaced Barcelona legend Jose Ramon Alexanko who left the club a few months earlier. He had great input into the overall organisation of the club.

Flemming, a former Chelsea scout, has massive experience in all spheres of club management and has made his mark as a talent scout of note in Europe.

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This should also serve as an eye-opener for Kaizer Chiefs, the most storied club in SA football history. Chiefs have opted to appoint relatives of the chairman Kaizer Motaung in various positions. Since Motaung's relatives have taken office, Chiefs have not won a trophy.

It might even have been Chiefs' downfall, and that much came to light when their former mentor Gavin Hunt, one of the country's most successful coaches often could not answer questions at press conferences. The questions fell well inside the ambit of the coach's area of responsibilities, and that suggested decisions were made for him.

This weekend the Sundowns juggernaut will be in action again, and this time they have the Nedbank Cup trophy in their sights. If they go on to win the final, it will mark a treble after they lifted the MTN8 title earlier this season.

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