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Mamelodi Sundowns' Peter Shalulile is challenged by Thabo Moloisane of Stellenbosch FC in their DStv Premiership match at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES
Mamelodi Sundowns' Peter Shalulile is challenged by Thabo Moloisane of Stellenbosch FC in their DStv Premiership match at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES

Mamelodi Sundowns set the points record for the 16-team era of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) on Saturday, but are also on course to break the all-time mark of 75 set when the league initially consisted of 18 clubs.

Whatever Sundowns end the 2023-24 season on — they reached 72 points by beating second-placed Stellenbosch FC 1-0 at Athlone Stadium on Saturday — is likely to stand for some time. Sundowns surpassed the 71 points they put on the log in 2015-16, and seem, likely to add to that tally in their remaining games.

Their win against Stellies extended their unbeaten record in Premiership games to 52 thanks to Lesiba Nku’s second half goal.

The Brazilians are seeking to become the first SA team to go a league season unbeaten, joining select clubs globally who earned the title “Invincibles”, as they meet fourth-placed TS Galaxy at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday and Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

They can end on 78 points if they win both games. Downs have won eight of their last 10 league matches and their last three in succession.

Downs suffered the disappointment of a Champions League semifinal exit to Esperance Tunis last month. Since then a side that has competed in six competitions this season and had only points and records to play for in the PSL since wrapping up the title by thrashing Kaizer Chiefs 5-1 five games ago, have continued barreling towards more benchmarks.

Another they can set is the all-time Premiership points record.

The Premiership, founded to replace the National Soccer League in the 1996-97 season, was reduced from 18 to 16 teams from the 2003-04 campaign. In the 18-team format Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs jointly hold the record of 75 points. Both teams reached that mark in the 1998-99 season, the Brazilians taking the title on goal difference.

Downs reached 75 points again when winning the 1999-2000 championship.

Asked about the clash against Galaxy, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena explained his team’s ability to continue ploughing towards records despite supposedly tired legs in a season where they reached their 55th match against Stellies in simple terms.

“All the games are very important. The next game is the most important of our lives,” he said.

“We have to be ready. We have to get to Joburg now, have a good rest, a good sleep, watch the last few [Galaxy] games and try to prepare ourselves tactically for the next game. It’s going to be a tough game, of course.”

There have been on-field, touchline and press conference fireworks between Sundowns and Galaxy in 2023-24, including a war of words between Mokwena and his Rockets counterpart Sead Ramović.

Downs, who also won the inaugural African Football League in November, will aim to attain a treble in 2023-24 when they meet Orlando Pirates in the season-ending Nedbank Cup final at Mbombela Stadium on June 1.

 

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