OPINION | Project dethrone Mamelodi Sundowns: Who can get the job done?

The new season is upon us and Mamelodi Sundowns are again favourites to court the DStv Premiership title.

Four teams are primed for the task to challenge the Brazilians but with 30 league matches, can they get the job done?

Season kicks off on Friday with Cape Town City entertaining Sundays at DHL Cape Town Stadium.

It has been a tale that always has the same result, with Mamelodi Sundowns adding the most significant silverware – the DStv Premiership – to their cabinet each season.

That has been the case for the past five seasons as yellow confetti keeps showering down on the Brazilians at the end of May each year.

In the past decade, Downs have accounted for seven of the championships, with rivals Kaizer Chiefs winning two (2012/13, 2014/15) and the now defunct Bidvest Wits attaining the 2016/17 title.

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Sundowns, who have three coaches – Manqoba Mngqithi, Rhulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela – won last season’s title with four matches to spare. After that, they ended the campaign with a 16-point gap ahead of runners up, Cape Town City.

Downs have made it seem effortless in how they have continuously edged out competitors for silverware. With their seven league crowns, they have also won eight titles in the MTN8, Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout, CAF Champions League and the Super Cup.

As we all may know, but for those who don’t, the Motsepe family-owned club has a massive financial budget, favouring top players around the country to sign for the Tshwane side.

Big money contracts are enough to lure players to Chloorkop more than ever in these trying economic difficulties, which further helps Sundowns achieve success, domestically and continentally.

Still, winning a league title is no easy feat and remaining consistent and dominant for 30 league games is a task only seven clubs have conquered in South Africa’s top flight, including Sundowns.

This coming season, four teams are cable of being part of what I like to call ‘Project dethrone Mamelodi Sundowns’ – but who can get the job done?

Mokwena said when Sundowns won the title that it was not their “responsibility” to make sure that the league is competitive.

Meanwhile, Eric Tinkler has spoken about how teams need to raise the bar in order to help dethrone Sundowns.

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All of that will inevitably make the league more competitive and enjoyable.

Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates should be able to raise their hands this season, attempting to catch the biggest fish that has escaped their grasp for so long and give Sundowns a run for their money.

The same can be said of Tinkler’s City, while SuperSport United could be a part of the teams vying for the title and destroy Downs’ chance of celebrating their sixth consecutive crown in May next year.

Tashreeq’s weekend triple threat:

Cape Town City v Mamelodi Sundowns, Cape Town Stadium – Friday, 19:30

The Citizens have hovered just underneath the top spot since the owner and chairman, John Comitis, bought Mpumalanga Black Aces, relocated and renamed the club in 2016.

Six years on, the Blue and Gold army has never been more equipped to challenge for the title. They have a well-balanced squad of talented players, such as 2021/22 PSL Goalkeeper of the Season Hugo Marques, Taariq Fielies, Terrence Mashego, Mogamat May, Thabo Nodada, Mduduzi Mdantsane and many others who could help their cause.

They have also added the unknown attacker, Jordan Bender, from the United States, to their arsenal.

It will be an even further uphill task because they participate in this season’s Champions League, and preliminary rounds take to the whistle in September.

City could make their intent known (and felt) on Friday evening in the season’s opener against Masandawana, who have already bolstered their squad with Ronwen Williams, Sipho Mbule, Marcelo Allende (Uruguay) and Abdelmounaim Boutouil (Morocco).

Orlando Pirates v Swallows, Orlando Stadium – Saturday, 15:00

The Buccaneers have a new coach – Jose Riveiro – from Spain. Keeping with their tradition, Pirates have gone foreign over local (again) for a mentor.

Since the turn of the century, the Soweto giants have had 13 coaches worldwide, with Riveiro being lucky number 14.

But how much luck can he bring to the Sea Robbers?

Last season, Pirates punched well below their weight, as I have previously stated in my 2021 review of the club – and so that needed change, which the club has done, with an unknown coach who boasts a well-rounded working resume.

Additionally, after a host of player exits, new faces arrived to strengthen their hopes of vying for the title because that is the expectation set for a club of Pirates’ stature.

It has been 11 years since they won the league, and the fans are desperate to regain their glory years.

A Soweto derby against a Swallows outfit that survived relegation is a proper fixture to set the tone and mind-frame for the Pirates coach, his staff and, more importantly, the players.

We will get a first glimpse of the kind of football Riveiro will want the Buccaneers to play and whether his players can pull it off in the first match, as three points will be decisive.

Royal AM v Kaizer Chiefs, Chatsworth Stadium – Saturday, 17:30

Royal AM surprised many naysayers as owner Shauwn Mkhize bought, renamed and relocated Bloemfontein Celtic to KwaZulu-Natal.

All players and staff boarded a flight from Free State to Durban, and head coach John Maduka worked his magic and catapulted the club to a remarkable third-placed finish.

However, he downed tools and left in the off-season, joining Maritzburg United. Mkhize has since appointed Dan Malesela as the club’s new mentor, and he will be in the dugout against Amakhosi this weekend.

After finishing in the top four, expectations will only rise for Thwihli Thwahla in the coming campaign and whether they can improve on that position while participating in the CAF Confederation Cup.

Royal AM’s opponents, Chiefs, parted ways with Stuart Baxter and gave Arthur Zwane a three-year contract as head coach.

And the pressure is on for ‘10111’ – who is an Amakhosi legend – and fans have expectations that he is the man that can end their seven-year trophy drought.

He has been in this position before on an interim basis. But now, he is in complete control, with the Motaung family-owned club putting their complete trust in Zwane.

Chiefs had a mass exodus of players while adding Yusuf Maart, Ashley du Preez, Zitha Kwinika and Siyethemba Sithebe.

The tantalising fixture between Royal AM and Chiefs will test Malesela in a new environment, while Zwane attempts to integrate new faces into a team that needs rejuvenation.