The late Ted Dumitru won the league title in 1998 and 1999, before Paul Dolezar completed the last piece of the treble puzzle in 2000. What followed were successful seasons of winning the league here and there, but not until now was there a winning bonanza, with Pitso Mosimane bagging back-to-back-to-back league crowns as the cherry on top, to give Downs the bragging rights as the side with the most league championships in the Premier Soccer League era – edging out close rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, who have four titles each. The Sundowns squad of the late 90s...
The late Ted Dumitru won the league title in 1998 and 1999, before Paul Dolezar completed the last piece of the treble puzzle in 2000. What followed were successful seasons of winning the league here and there, but not until now was there a winning bonanza, with Pitso Mosimane bagging back-to-back-to-back league crowns as the cherry on top, to give Downs the bragging rights as the side with the most league championships in the Premier Soccer League era – edging out close rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, who have four titles each.
The Sundowns squad of the late 90s to early 2000s, which happened to be the first team to claim three league titles on the trot in the country, was really a formidable group. It had the likes of Isaac Shai, John Tlale, Raphael Chukwu, Bennet Mnguni, Lovers Mohlala, and club sweetheart Daniel "Mambush" Mudau in the mix. These days Mudau works in close relation with the supporters of the club, but back in his heydays he captained the side in the 2001 Caf Champions League final where they lost to Egyptian giants, Al-Ahly.
During that period, Downs did not only win the league three times in a row, they also collected three pieces of domestic silverware and they could have added more to their tally as they lost five cup finals – impressively averaging two cup finals a year for four years. This is the team that was largely viewed as the best Sundowns team ever. But that claim has been put under the microscope for the first time. And here's why – the "CBD" era came to pass.
The "CBD" is of course an acronym made up of the names of Leonardo Castro, Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly. Those three spearheaded Sundowns' 2015/16 attack and led the side to a 71-point haul of points in the league, setting the record, and they incredibly only lost three games in that campaign. They scored 55 goals in the process. What set that generation apart is that they went on to win the Caf Champions League, as opposed to the older generation that succumbed to Al-Ahly in the final.
The "CBD" era boasted a prime Teko Modise, Bongani Zungu and Hlompho Kekana who buzzed in midfield. Thabo Nthethe, Wayne Arendse and Tebogo Langerman were the rear guards in front of Denis Onyango, while Anthony Laffor, with his big match appetite, rounded up what was a star-studded side. This side coupled the Champions League title with the league title and the Telkom Knockout – another treble winning season, and went on to add the Caf Super Cup as the cherry on top.
In between those two generations, however, was the team led by the duo of Neil Tovey and Miguel Gamondi, who won the league in 2005/06, falling two points short of this season's 59-point tally. Andre Arendse was in goal, David Kannemeyer, Benson Mhlongo, Vuyo Mere and the late Oscar Ntwagae were all trusted defenders. Tovey and Gamondi had engines like Esrom Nyandoro and Dillon Sheppard in midfield while the likes of Surprise Moriri and Godfrey Sapula were the geniuses in attack. The following season Gordon Igesund inherited the majority of that squad and brought on the likes of Mbulelo Mabizela.
Mosimane has reiterated many a time that it is unfair to compare generations and in the same breath, he says it is important to make sure that the torch of dominance is passed over from one group to the next. "Jingles" suggested that he is trying to build a new-look Sundowns, but he is quick to admit that it might not be as attractive as the "CBD" side or the current Downs side that just claimed the treble.
"We have moved from generation to generation. We have now moved from the "CBD", the Bongani Zungus, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Thabo Nthethe, and so many important players, so my job is to make sure that we replace those players because the level of expectation does not go down.
"Now we have the generation of the Sphelele Mkhulise, Gaston Sirino, Mosa Lebusa, Lyle Lakay, Thapelo Morena, and Themba Zwane is still around. The difficult part is that while you are replacing the players you have to keep winning; it's not easy. When you lose the "CBD"; that team scored 55 goals and won the league with 71 points from 30 games and I think they won 22 games, that's huge, what a team," said Mosimane, who went on to say the "CBD" side is the greatest team he has coached and might be impossible to assemble that kind of team again.
"They won the Champions League, even though it was not a local treble because it had the treble, but it was a treble still and to add the cherry op top, they added the Super Cup … what a team we had. To get there again, it is like you are talking about the Barcelona of David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and them. We don't have that team anymore, generations move on and we always have to try and bring it up. The team that we are trying to put together now, I think it will be more effective and less glamorous as this one. This one can pass the ball."
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