The country is holding its breath in anticipation as table toppers Kaizer Chiefs get set to host second placed Mamelodi Sundowns in a top of the table Absa Premiership clash. The action will take place at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Thursday evening at 18:00.
With Chiefs holding a three-point lead ahead of Sundowns, there could not be more at stake as Amakhosi look to take a step closer to the league title. Victory over the defending champions will swing the pendulum firmly in Chiefs’ favour.
Chiefs and Sundowns being in a two-way tussle for the title is nothing new, especially in the PSL era. The two clubs have gone head to head for the title on a number of occasions with their most famous battle for the championship coming in the 1998-99 season. A campaign which saw both sides finish on 75 points, but Sundowns managed to retain the title as they had a superior goal difference to Chiefs. Presently Amakhosi have a better goal difference.
When the sides met earlier in the season at Loftus in Pretoria back in November, a Samir Nurković brace saw Chiefs cruise to a 2-0 win. The Serbian striker who has netted 13 league goals this campaign misses this game through suspension. While he will be a big miss, Chiefs will have the personnel handy who could be able to help them win the three valuable points on offer and take another giant step towards their first title since 2014-15.
Chiefs’ rivalry with Sundowns is not as old as the ones they have with the likes of Orlando Pirates, Bloemfontein Celtic, and Bidvest Wits. It began in 1983 – the first season in which Sundowns in their current guise came to the top-flight football of South Africa. There have been a number of memorable duels between the sides in the PSL era. They have met in 47 league games, with Chiefs managing to win 20 of these games – the most number of wins that any team has recorded since 1996-97 against Sundowns. Sundowns have won 13 games and a further 14 have ended in a stalemate.
One of the most memorable clashes between the sides took place on the 19 February 2005. The game with Sundowns as hosts produced seven goals, with Chiefs edging the match 4-3 courtesy of a Collins Mbesuma hat-trick despite playing a large portion of the game with 10 men after Emmanuel ‘Scara’ Ngobese was sent off at the end of the first half.
Chiefs will need the same kind of spirit and determination to overcome the defending Champions who have won four league titles in the last six seasons. The same one they displayed when they overcame them in a fiercely contested game earlier in the season.
Chiefs will be looking towards history for inspiration in this game, as they have completed league doubles over Sundowns previously most notably in the 2003-04 season when two 2-0 wins over the Brazilians helped them to the title.
The clash will go a long way in determining who will win what has been an extended Absa Premiership campaign. Amakhosi will be aiming for the victory which can give them the upper hand and put them in the driving seat as the title race enters the final straight.