Mzansi’s greatest teams

Kaizer Chiefs

Orlando Pirates (1973-74)

The Orlando Pirates class of 1973-74 is arguably the best side ever assembled in the club’s history.

Winning the League, the Life Cup, the BP Top Eight Cup and the Champion of Champions, the Buccaneers completed a clean sweep. But the 1973 season started with coach Elliot Buthelezi getting ousted and replaced by an imposter from England by the name of Tony Sanderson.

He claimed to have played for Wolverhampton Wanders and said he had three England Under-23 caps. But the record books showed there was no such player.

Sanderson went on to become a radio deejay and TV talk show host. But how much influence he actually had on the team is subject to debate, as players like Chippa Moloi, Sparks Banda and a young Jomo Sono were enough to help the team win all before them.


Kaizer Chiefs (1981)

Kaizer Chiefs are undoubtedly the most successful South African team, with well over 45 trophies won, but it was during the 1981 season that the team stamped its authority on the game, lifting almost every trophy on offer.

The League title, Mainstay Cup, BP Top 8 and Sales House Cup were all won during the club’s greatest year.

In 1980, Chiefs were a team in transition and it was no surprise when they finished the season with only the Sales House Cup in their trophy cabinet. They were knocked out of the Mainstay Cup by Moroka Swallows in the semi-finals after the first match ended in a dramatic 5-5 draw.

But in 1981 players like Jan Malombo Lechaba, Peter Bala’c, Pule ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe and Teenage Dladla were all at the peak of their careers. In the BP Top 8 Final they humiliated Dynamos 7-1 on aggregate, while in the Mainstay Cup Final they beat Pirates 3-1.   


Durban Bush Bucks (1985)

It does not come as a surprise when a star-studded side made up of the likes of Mark Tovey, Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane, Calvin Petersen, Mike ‘Sporo’ Mangena, Raul Gonzalez, Basil Hollister and Daniel Ramurutsi – with Clive Barker sitting on the bench – ends up being League champions.

The disappointment of losing the 1984 Mainstay Cup Final to Chiefs was quickly forgotten as the team went on to become the first ever NSL champions.

After that successful season, Bush Bucks went on to finish second on the log in 1986 and won the 1987 JPS by beating Pirates 2-1, before getting relegated in 1990 after finishing bottom of the log.


Jomo Cosmos (1987)        

Jomo Cosmos, formed in 1983 when Jomo Sono bought the Highlands Park franchise, reached the 1986 Mainstay Cup Final when they took on a star-studded Mamelodi Sundowns team constructed with Zola Mahobe’s millions.

Sundowns won the thrilling match after Cosmos substitute Greg Cupido deflected the ball into his own net deep into extra-time.

That impressive side, which was made up of the likes of Marco di Giavampaolo, Webster Lichaba, Graham Boyle, KK Sono, Johnny Masegela, was then strengthened, and players such as Pitso Mosimane, Gesond Vilakazi, Eric September were all signed ahead of 1987 season.

A young Thomas Madigage was also introduced before making his professional debut on 15 March 1987 against Leeds United.

By the end of 1987 Ezenkosi won their first ever League title when they finished one point ahead of Chiefs. After that historic season, Cosmos reached three Bob Save Super Bowl finals in a row between 1990 and 1992, winning it in 1990.

However, in 1993 the team was relegated from the NSL and players like Linda Buthelezi, Helman Mkhalele, Arthur Zwane, Sizwe Motaung, Mark Fish, Innocent Mncwango, Edward Motale were all sold.


Kaizer Chiefs (1991-1992)

Some might argue that the inclusion of Federations teams to the NSL made the League weaker, but very few will dispute the fact that the Chiefs team of 1991-1992 was the greatest.

With Jeff Butler (left) at the helm, Fani Madida coming back from a loan spell from Giant Blackpool, Isaac Kungwane making his debut and Doctor Khumalo, Lucas Radebe, Chippa Molatedi, Trevor Mthimkhulu, Shane McGredor as established stars, Chiefs dominated local football.

Back-to-back League titles and BP Top 8 victories and the 1991 Castle Challenge were all won, and it came as no surprise that the first ever national squad was dominated by players from Amakhosi.

After players like Radebe, Ace Khuse and Madida left, Chiefs lost their dominance and had to wait almost 12 years before clinching another League title in 2004.


Orlando Pirates (1994-1996)

Pirates were on the brink of collapse when Irvin Khoza was invited back to take over the club.

The 1992 Castle Challenge victory was followed by a 1993 BP Top 8 win, but it was at the beginning of the 1994 season when fortunes started to change for the better.

The squad was overhauled and players like Mark Fish, John Moeti and Innocent Mncwango were brought in, while the little-known Mike Makaab was installed as coach.

The team quickly gelled and clinched the 1994 League title, while the crowning glory, the CAF Champions Cup, followed in 1995, and the BP Top 8, Bob Save Super Bowl and CAF Super Cup all coming in the following year.


Bafana Bafana (1996)

Whenever Bafana Bafana plays, the class of 1996 will forever be mentioned.

The team was dubbed ‘4x4’ after losing 4-1 to Zimbabwe, 4-0 to Nigeria and 4-0 to Mexico, but Clive Barker took over and transformed the team into African champions.

After playing second fiddle to Steve Crowley, reserve goalkeeper Andre Arendse was established as number one a month before the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off, with the successful Pirates team of 1995 forming the spine of the team.

But after Bafana qualified for the 1998 World Cup and was knocked out of the 1997 Confederations Cup, the team was dismantled, and youngsters brought in.


Mamelodi Sundowns (1997-2000)

After winning the League title under Jeff Butler in 1993, Sundowns went through a transition phase.

Players were brought in and coaches like Clemence Westerhof, Reinhard Fabisch, Screamer Tshabalala and Johnny Ferreira left as quickly as they joined.

But it was not until the 1997/98 season that the Brazilians really stamped their authority on the local game.

Cameroonian international Roger Feutmba, Nigerian Raphael Chukwu, Daniel Mudau, Isaac Shai, Themba Mnguni, Lovers Mohlala and Eric Ramasike were the spine of the team.

Mike Manzini made his professional debut at the age of 26 against Orlando Pirates in the Bob Save Super Bowl Final and became a regular.

After winning their first League and Cup Double during that season, Sundowns lost the Rothmans Cup twice to Chiefs before winning it against Free State Stars.

Overall the team won five trophies, but then went on a downward spiral after losing in the 2001 CAF Champions League Final.