Mamelodi Sundowns need point to seal league title as rivals slip

Johannesburg (AFP) – Mamelodi Sundowns need one point from a South African Premiership clash with Cape Town City in Pretoria on Wednesday to clinch a record-extending fifth straight league title. 

The favourable situation for the dominant club in the country arose without them playing in the marquee domestic competition as they were on CAF Champions League duty.

Entering the weekend, Royal AM, Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs occupied second, third and fourth places, and were the only teams who could mathematically overtake the runaway leaders.

But Royal dropped two points in a 0-0 Durban derby draw with AmaZulu on Sunday, a day after Chiefs failed to collect any after losing 1-0 at Stellenbosch. Cape Town City had a bye.

Sundowns now need only draw at home to Cape Town to take an unassailable lead, pocket the 15 million rand ($970,000/895,000 euros) first prize and secure a 2022-2023 CAF Champions League place.

Ahead of the clash with in-form City, Sundowns have 57 points, Royal 45, Cape Town 40 and Chiefs 39, along with out-of-contention Orlando Pirates and Stellenbosch. 

Even if Sundowns fall to Cape Town, they have four other fixtures, starting away to mid-table Sekhukhune United on September 3, to become Premiership champions a 12th time. 

They are chasing a South African treble, having won the early-season MTN 8 knockout competition and reached the Nedbank (FA) Cup semi-finals, where they face Royal on Saturday.

– Another African flop –

However, the prize Sundowns crave most has eluded them again this year after a shock 3-2 aggregate loss to Petro Luanda of Angola this weekend in the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.

It was the third straight season in which a club owned by Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe has made a last-eight exit. 

Premiership runners-up also qualify for the Champions League and Royal are favoured to remain second despite being held by resurgent AmaZulu in a city recovering from floods that claimed 435 lives.

A breakaway goal on 20 minutes from Deano van Rooyen condemned coach-less Chiefs to defeat in the picturesque western Cape winelands.

Chiefs were caught napping by the pace and directness of sixth-placed Stellenbosch after Chiefs surrendered possession having forced a corner.

The Johannesburg outfit fired English coach Stuart Baxter three days ago, 11 months into his second stint at Chiefs, the most successful South African club with 53 titles, but without a trophy since 2016.

“Our players lack confidence and are afraid to express themselves,” admitted caretaker coach and former star Chiefs winger Arthur Zwane.

“They need to become bold, display flair and be arrogant on the ball. We are Kaizer Chiefs and nothing but the best will do.”