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Hopes of Sundowns’ treble are fading

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These are uncertain times for Mamelodi Sundowns, whose aspirations of securing a domestic treble continue to be up in the air.

JOHANNESBURG – Another Wednesday, another day without football. These are uncertain times for Mamelodi Sundowns, whose aspirations of securing a domestic treble continue to be up in the air.

Today was supposed to be one of the sought-after dates on the calendar of the South African domestic football season as champions Sundowns were set to host Kaizer Chiefs in a top-of-the-table clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Had both teams won their last league matches – if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t brought the league to an indefinite halt since early last month – the Brazilians would have headed into this encounter second on the Premiership standings, merely a point behind Chiefs.

This game would have put both teams on par with 27 games apiece, leaving no room for error in the last three games. After all, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, who is a back-to-back champion, had already put out a firm warning to his fellow title contenders, having said: “We’ll win our last five matches.”

Those in the know will tell you that coach “Jingles” seldom speaks in clichés, especially after having stayed true to his word last season, bagging their last 15 points despite juggling domestic and continental football as Orlando Pirates slipped up in the penultimate round.

While Mosimane has confidence in his players to pull off a déjà vu repeat, Chiefs, on the other hand, were showing signs of cracks, especially after losing to relegation-threatened AmaZulu in their last league match before the imposed national lockdown.

But with the lockdown, which came to effect a month ago, scheduled to come to an end at the end of the month, both teams will still keep their first and second positions on the Premiership standings.

But should the lockdown be extended by the government, Sundowns’ chances of returning to the pinnacle of South African football face more uncertainties, considering that a number of factors will impact the completion of the season.

In some parts of the world, there have been talks of cancelling the domestic seasons completely and crowning whichever team that leads as champions. So, if the task team which has been appointed by the PSL also come to such a verdict, Amakhosi will be crowned champions for the first time in five seasons.

As all the teams will keep their positions on the log, Sundowns will still qualify for the premier African club competition next season as the Premiership’s runners-up, alongside Chiefs, who’ll be the kings of South African football.

But in the bigger scheme of things, this week meant a great deal to Sundowns’ overall aspirations. Fresh from playing Chiefs, the Brazilians were scheduled to clash with Bidvest Wits in the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup, either on Saturday or Sunday.

This was also no ordinary fixture, with both teams still in the hunt for championship glory, while also battling for a spot in the final of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition, which is one step away from qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup next season.

For former Champions League winners Sundowns, the ultimate target is to return to continental football next season, but the league and Nedbank Cup are two trophies that could complete a domestic treble after already winning the Telkom Knockout title in December.