OPINION: We might just have a title race on our hands
Could AmaZulu really upset the apple-cart and take down Masandawana?
Sundowns and AmaZulu, the two main title contenders, drew 0-0 earlier this month. Picture: Steve Haag/BackpagePix
For most of this season, let’s be honest, we haven’t really had a title race in the DStv Premiership. Mamelodi Sundowns, the undisputed current kings of the local game, have been cruising their way towards a fourth top-flight crown in a row, with an air of superiority that befits a team that has dominated the league like they have.
Even the departure of Pitso Mosimane to Al Ahly didn’t upset the applecart. In fact, Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela took Masandawana on a 21-game unbeaten run in the Premiership this season, just nine games from invincibility.
On Sunday at Loftus Versveld stadium, however, Kaizer Chiefs spoiled Masandawana’s chances of going an entire campaign without defeat, Gavin Hunt’s Amakhosi surprising candidates to make anyone believe theirthere might be a race for the crown after all.
Chiefs’ domestic campaign has been abysmal – this was only their sixth win in 23 league games all season, but they have also raised their game in the more high-profile fixtures of late.
A 1-0 Soweto derby win over Orlando Pirates was followed by the same scoreline at home to Wydad Casablanca, a result that enabled Amakhosi to draw in Guinea at Horoya and qualify for the quarterfinals of the Caf Champions League.
And then came at least a small chopping down to size of Sundowns that should give Chiefs plenty of encouragement heading into the last-eight on the continent, even if their domestic efforts remain feeble overall.
If there is a title race, Chiefs certainly won’t be in it, and if Orlando Pirates are to join in the fun, they are going to need to find way more consistency on the domestic front.
Instead, it is AmaZulu, strengthened by the finances of Sandile Zungu and the coaching acumen of Benni McCarthy, who are giving Sundowns the closest run for their money.
Usuthu have picked up 22 points out of a possible 24 in their last eight matches, and trail Sundowns by just three points.
The Tshwane giants do still have two games in hand on the Durban side but the loss to Chiefs was representative of a bit of a wobble of late that also included a loss to TTM in the Nedbank Cup semifinals.
Masandawana, indeed, have netted just once in their last three matches in all competitions and need to address the situation, starting with today’s clash with third-placed Golden Arrows. After Arrows, Sundowns play Pirates on Sunday.
AmaZulu have a difficult game themselves today, at an in-form Cape Town City, before taking on Arrows on Saturday in a KwaZulu-Natal derby.
This, in other words, could be a week in which Sundowns nail down their position on top of the table, or that the crown really starts slipping off their head.
If Masandawana beat both Arrows and Pirates, and AmaZulu slip up, they will be able to smell a fourth title in a row.
But if they lose both and AmaZulu win both, then the Premiership title race starts to get really interesting.