Sport

MAKE OR BREAK

SuperSport United out to delay Mamelodi Sundowns’ coronation as Premiership champions

SuperSport United out to delay Mamelodi Sundowns’ coronation as Premiership champions
SuperSport United's Zakhele Lepasa (left) with the ball during the DStv Premiership match between SuperSport United and Golden Arrows at Lucas Moripe Stadium on 5 March, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Any dropped points for SuperSport United against Chippa United this weekend will see Mamelodi Sundowns officially crowned DStv Premiership champions.

Mamelodi Sundowns are not in domestic football action this weekend, as they look to wrap their Caf Champions League group stage campaign in style versus Cameroon’s Coton Sport.

A win for Masandawana will guarantee them the top spot in Group B, as well as safe passage to the continental competition’s knockout phase for the fifth season in a row.

The DStv Premiership runaway leaders can have double joy this weekend if everything falls in their favour. That’s because their “nearest” rivals SuperSport United (who trail their Tshwane neighbours by a staggering 20 points) have to win in their weekend fixture against Chippa United.

If Gavin Hunt’s men fail to return with the full three points from the Saturday evening fixture in Gqeberha — Sundowns will claim their sixth Premiership title in a row. They are on 59 points, with second-placed SuperSport on 39 — both with seven games remaining. A win for Matsatsantsa will delay the celebrations for Sundowns. Even if only for a few days.

A Sundowns win in their next league outing — against Cape Town City on Tuesday — will see them stretch their lead at the summit of the log table to an unassailable 62 points. Even if SuperSport win all their remaining games, the best points tally they can accumulate is 60.

Of course, even though they will definitely not overhaul Masandawana, Hunt’s charges would love to win all their remaining matches.

Matsatsantsa are still in pole position to claim the best consolation prize available amid Sundowns’ perennial domestic dominance — second place, which comes with Champions League participation.  

Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns

Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Sibusiso Mthethwa and Tshepo Mabua of Richards Bay during the 2022 Prince Mangosuthu Legacy Cup match at the Ulundi Stadium, Ulundi on 23 July 2022. (Photo: Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix)

The Tshwane side has third-placed Orlando Pirates (who beat them before the international break) breathing down its neck. The loss against the Buccaneers narrowed SuperSport’s advantage in the runners-up race to just two points.

As they push to usurp Matsatsantsa, it will not be easy for the Sea Robbers. They face a Richards Bay side which is desperately trying to arrest a ratchet run of form in recent months.

The KwaZulu-Natal side last won a match in mid-January, against Marumo Gallants. This after an impressive start to the campaign that saw the Premiership rookies keep pace with Sundowns while others were already struggling early on.

However, a run of five league losses and two draws sees the Natal Rich Boys facing the risk of missing out on a top-eight finish which looked like a certainty before the Qatar World Cup.

“We had a poor run before the [international] break, but now we know what to do. We want to start winning our games like we did in the opening stages of the league,” said Abel Mabaso of Richards Bay.

Kaizer Chiefs are in the race for second as well, tied on 37 points with their Soweto rivals.

They will hope that both Chippa and Richards Bay can help bolster their Champions League hopes by beating their fellow hopefuls. Though Amakhosi’s goal difference lags behind that of SuperSport and Pirates in the tight sprint for the finish line.      

Chiefs face a Stellenbosch side that is unbeaten in their last five Premiership matches.

“We obviously want to finish as high up as possible. The Caf spot is still available. So, that’s our main aim now,” Amakhosi goalkeeper Brandon Petersen told the club’s website.

“As much as we are taking one game at a time, one eye is always on the prize, that second spot. So, we are going into every game like it’s a cup final for us. We want maximum points because we want to play Caf football next season.” DM

DStv Premiership fixtures

Saturday, 1 April:

Richards Bay vs Orlando Pirates (3pm)

Chippa United vs SuperSport United (5:30pm)

Kaizer Chiefs vs Stellenbosch (5:30pm)

AmaZulu vs Swallows (8pm)

Sunday, 2 April:

Golden Arrows vs Sekhukhune United (3pm)

TS Galaxy vs Maritzburg United (5:30pm)

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