Bidvest Wits eye Champions League glory

Gavin Hunt
Gavin Hunt has picked up his fourth Premier Soccer League title in South Africa

African champions Mamelodi Sundowns have relinquished their South African title after a dramatic penultimate round of the domestic season.

Bidvest Wits are the new champions - a maiden triumph for the former Johannesburg-based university students club bought by billionaire businessman Brain Joffe.

It is coach Gavin Hunt's fourth Premier Soccer League title in South Africa's title.

For the last two seasons, the Clever Boys have have emerged as the only side capable of taking on Sundowns, whose owner Patrice Motsepe is one of the wealthiest men in Africa.

The dominance of the two clubs in the local transfer market left traditional power houses Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates trailing in their wake.

It also reflects the two giants' fast declining status and inability to compete for the best talent, not to mention the fact that it is the first time in almost 50 years of professional football in South Africa that neither Chiefs nor Pirates have won any of the four trophies on offer.

Wits have taken almost a decade since Joffe's initial investment to get to the title, achieving it with some judicious buying and Hunt's appointment as coach.

Hunt coached SuperSport United to a trio of titles between 2008 and 2010 but this is his first success in seven years.

Wits were two points clear of Sundowns before Wednesday's games but with a much stiffer run-in.

But a third-minute goal from English import James Keane, who played for Portsmouth when they were in the Premier League, settled the nerves and they went on to win 2-0.

Sundowns were expected to match them by beating Maritzburg at home and force the championship race to the final match day on Saturday, 27 May.

But with only a single victory in their last five outings, Sundowns looked flat and listless and poor marking at a corner allowed Maritzburg's Kenyan international Brian Onyango to head home for a half-time lead.

Maritzburg then went further ahead midway through the second half with a wonder goal from Evans Rusike, the Zimbabwean international

At 2-0 down, Sundowns had to score three times in the final 15 minutes to keep alive their title hopes but it was only in the 84th minute that they pulled one goal back through Ivory Coast striker Yannick Zakri.

By then the players knew the dye was cast but Maritzburg goalkeeper Virgil Vries, the Namibia captain, spoiled a high ball in the last seconds to allow Zakri to claim a second for a 2-2 draw.

Sundowns now find themselves under pressure to finish second and claim a Champions League spot for next year.

They have a one-point lead over third-placed Cape Town City, who also have high hopes of reaching the Champions League.

Wits have been in the top flight of South African football every season, save for one, since 1978 but this is their first ever league title.

Last season they finished second for the first time.

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