Can Swallows and Middendorp stop Sundowns’ runaway train?

January 2, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja



Right now it’s a case of New Year, same old story, as Mamelodi Sundowns begin 2023 lording it over the rest of the DStv Premiership.

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Masandawana’s 2-0 win over Orlando Pirates on Friday wasn’t so much a case of Sundowns reinforcing their status as the nation’s best as it was stating the obvious, the Tshwane giants moving a full 12 points clear of the Buccaneers, and with a game in hand to boot.

Rulani Mokwena’s side, who host Swallows FC on Tuesday, are only five points clear of second-placed surprise package Richards Bay, and seven ahead of SuperSport United and Kaizer Chiefs, perhaps the two sides most likely to give them any sort of run for their money this season.

In reality, however, this tale is likely only to have one ending, and that is Sundowns walking away with a sixth straight title in May. Swallows have hired relegation-avoidance specialist Ernst Middendorp to try and pull them out of a hole, and that mission started in disappointing fashion on Saturday, as they went down 1-0 at Richards Bay.

Sacked

Swallows sacked another expert in the art of avoiding the drop, Dylan Kerr, to bring in the well-travelled German, and it remains to be seen if Middendorp can succeed at the Birds, who are currently sitting just two points above bottom-placed Maritzburg United.

Middendorp will certainly bring plenty of DStv Premiership experience to the table, and Sundowns can expect an intense tactial battle from Middendorp’s side, though they should have too much class, in what is the first league meeting between the two sides this season.

Masandawana scored seven goals to Swallows‘ two in their league meetings last season, a 3-0 win at home followed by a 4-2 victory on the road.

Peter Shalulile scored four times in those matches, including a hat-trick at the Birds in April, but looks unlikely to be fit enough to start today, though he has returned to full training, after a long spell out injured.

It could be left to Cassius Mailula to pick up where Shalulile left off – the 21 year-old has four goals in his last three league games.

Gavin Hunt’s SuperSport, meanwhile, grabbed a seventh win of the season on Friday with a 1-0 defeat of Marumo Gallants, and now face a tricky trip to the Mother City on Tuesday to take on Cape Town City.

City have had an inconsistent campaign up to now but did get a confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Royal AM on Friday, Thabo Nodada popping up with a last-gasp winner.