Runners-up in SA football … who has the most second place finishes?

football13 May 2024 12:55| © Mzansi Football
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Jayden Adams © Backpage Pix

With Mamelodi Sundowns having to romped to yet another DStv Premiership title, this weekend’s focus is firmly on the battle for second place in the standings, as it carries the prize of qualification for next season’s African Champions League.

Stellenbosch take a one-point lead over third placed Orlando Pirates into Saturday’s matches with both sides having suffered surprise setbacks on Saturday.

Stellenbosch lost their first league match since September when Moroka Swallows beat them in Dobsonville while Pirates were embarrassingly beaten 1-0 at home by second-from-bottom Richards Bay.

It does not get any easier for the pair this Saturday as Stellenbosch host Mamelodi Sundowns while Pirates travel to take on fifth placed TS Galaxy at the Mbombela Stadium.

But in the more than five decades of professional football in the country, who are the most frequent runners-up?

Kaizer Chiefs (13): Chiefs have finished runners-up more times than they won league titles, having taken 12 championships. They were runners-up in their first campaign in 1971 and since in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1987, 1990, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2014 and last in 2020, when they botched their last game against Baroka and allowed Sundowns to sneak in and take the title.

Orlando Pirates (8): The Buccaneers had already won four league titles, and it was almost two decades before their first ever second place, to Chiefs in 1989. Given the rivalry between the clubs it is remarkable they have only finished second to Chiefs one more time in 2005. They were runners-up to Sundowns, however, in 2000, 2006, 2018, 2019 and last season. Pirates also ended second in 2009 behind SuperSport United.

Mamelodi Sundowns (5): The club have just made sure of record extending seventh successive league title and 17th overall, putting them now way ahead of Chiefs and confirming their status as the country’s most successful club. They did not win a first title until 1988. Sundowns also came close in 1991, 1995, 2010, 2015 and 2017 when they were runners-up.

Moroka Swallows (5): As Moroka Swallows Big XV, the Birds were runners-up in 1972 but it was Swallows Limited who finished runners-up in 1974 in an era of the club being split by warring factions. The team with the likes of Aubrey ‘The Great’ Makgopela and Joel Mnini were runners-up in 1984 and club again finished second in 1993 and 2012.

Ajax Cape Town (3): The coastal club never won a league title, finishing second to Chiefs in 2004 and behind SuperSport in 2008. They were a distant second to Chiefs by six points and two behind SuperSport. But in 2011, they threw it away when a goalkeeping howler from Hans Vonk allowed Maritzburg to hold them to a draw when a home victory would have seen them pip Pirates.

Wits University (3): It took Wits almost 100 years to finally win the league title in 2017, with Gavin Hunt coaching them to glory, after which they promptly sold their franchise and went out of existence. In 1978 they were newly promoted and yet finished second in the first multi-racial league season behind Lusitano and were also runners-up in 1982 and 2016.

Arcadia (2): The Pretoria club were champions in the old whites-only NFL in 1974, when they did the triple with a squad that included Roy Matthews (later to coach Jomo Cosmos and SuperSport United) and the Wegerle brothers, Geoff and Steve. But the best they did subsequent to that was second place in both 1979 and 1983.

Platinum Stars (2): They were still known as Silver Stars and had only been in the league for four seasons when they were runners-up in 2007 to Sundowns, although the gap was 10 points. In 2013, it was only a one-point difference when they ended second to Chiefs, with Cavin Johnson in charge.

SuperSport United (2): Rookie coach Pitso Mosimane took over from Bruce Grobbelaar in mid-season and steered the club to second spot in 2002, albeit a distant five points behind Santos. There was a six-point gap 12 months later when Mosimane’s side ended six points behind champions Pirates.

Clubs that have finished runners-up once are AmaZulu, Benoni, Bush Bucks, Cape Town City, Cape Town Spurs, Hellenic, Highlands Park, Jomo Cosmos and Rangers.