by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – MAMELODI Sundowns’ sixth title in a row, secured this past weekend without them kicking a ball, widens the enormous gap between them and the rest of the teams in the South African elite league.
The Brazilians clinched the DStv Premiership after the latest pretender to their crown, SuperSport United, fell by the wayside as they only managed a one-all draw at Chippa United on Saturday.
Cross-city rivals, SuperSport, the only side that had a mathematical chance of dislodging Downs at the top, needed maximum points to keep their remote ambitions alive. However a draw rendered the defending champions’ 59 points unassailable.
Sundowns also have the luxury of a game in hand as this weekend, they were involved in continental action, hosting and beating Cotonsport Garoua 2-1 in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
At the end of the 2022/23 season, the Pretoria-based conquerors will be crowned champions a record-extending 13th time.
The side from the capital city has been a class of its own, giving its fans lots to cheer about while rivals subject their followers to more agony in a country that is in a sorry state of affairs.
The latest title sees The Brazilians clinching the Premiership a dominant eight times in the last ten campaigns. They have twice finished second in those two seasons they did not land the title, behind faded foes, Kaizer Chiefs, and the now-defunct Bidvest Wits.
In between their domestic success that includes numerous trophies, they have added the CAF Champions League and Super Cup to their teeming cabinet at Chloorkop.
Now that the DStv Premiership destination has been decided, the battle for second position is hotting up among the also-rans.
There is a lot at stake, with the side finishing second accompanying the champs to the Champions League, and a bigger purse than the rest of the chasing pack.
The runners-up in Africa’s most lucrative league, the DStv Premiership, pocket R7,5 million (US$422 250), which is half less than the prize money for the champions but twice more than the team that finishes third. Fourth and fifth banks R2,5 million and R1,8 million respectively.
Following their weekend draw, SuperSport United dropped to third, Orlando Pirates are up to second after the 2-0 win at Richards Bay and Chiefs remain fourth following a 2-1 win over visiting Stellenbosch.
After 24 matches, the Gauteng trio of Chiefs, Pirates and SuperSport United are all on 40 points and separated by goal difference.
Cape Town City, last year’s runners-up, are fifth on 33 points with a game in hand.
The standings are also tight at the wrong end of the 16-team table.
The side finishing bottom gets relegated while to remain in the topflight, the 15th placed side must contend the exhausting playoffs with the teams placed second and third in the first division Motsepe Foundation Championship.
Cape Town Spurs and Casric stars are neck-to-neck at the top of the first division on 47 points with six matches remaining. Polokwane City are third on 46 points.
At the elite league, Marumo Gallants sit at the bottom on 20 points from 23 games and victory in their game in hand would still not be enough to lift them as 15th-placed Maritzburg United are four points ahead.
Controversy-prone Chippa, and Swallows FC, placed 13th and 14th respectively, are also in the relegation mix on 26 and 27 points.
The ambitious AmaZulu have a point more at 12th and are not safe either.
A rapturous welcome from the “Yellow Nation”, as Sundowns fans are known, awaits coach Rhulani Mokoena and his table-toppers when they return to league action against Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday evening.
However, they have to wait for May 20 to witness the team’s crowning, when the league closes. Sundowns will on that afternoon be at home to Maritzburg.
On Wednesday evening, Marumo will be home-away-from-home at the Free State Stadium, where they host Royal AM, who at 11th are not entirely safe from the drop.
SuperSport United are in action on Friday evening when they host top eight-chasing TS Galaxy at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
There are four matches on Saturday, including the 15h00 kickoff between sixth-placed Richards Bay and inconsistent Golden Arrows (tenth) in a KwaZulu-Natal derby at the King Zwelithini.
Two matches kick off at 17h30. Sekhukhune United, at ninth, welcome Maritzburg to the Peter Mokaba while Pirates are away to Chippa at the Nelson Mandela Bay.
Home side Chiefs and Gallants round off proceedings at the FNB Stadium in a 20h00 kickoff.
On Sunday, the soon-to-be re-crowned Downs visit relegation-haunted Swallows at Dobsonville and Royal AM welcome eighth-placed Stellenbosch to Chatsworth. Both matches kick off at 15h00.
Hosts Cape Town City and AmaZulu will close the weekend’s action at the Mother City. Kickoff is at 17h30.
– CAJ News