For the month of July, our PSL History series focuses on the 2nd knockout tournament – the League Cup. This series will cover the best facts and stats from the league cup in all its versions – from the Coca Cola Cup and Rothmans Cup (1997 to 2000) to the present day version – The Telkom Knockout.
1996 – The first League Cup in the PSL era
The first League Cup final in the PSL era featured Bush Bucks and Qwa Qwa Stars in 1996, two sides no longer in the top-flight. Both eliminated Pretoria teams in the semis. Stars knocked Mamelodi Sundowns out, and a Wilfred Mugeyi brace helped Bucks overcome SuperSport United. Imbabala (Bush Bucks) came into the final without the suspended Wilfred Mugeyi, and could only manage a 1-1 draw. But William Mugeyi scored the only goal in the replay to edge out Stars and take the title home. Trott Moloto was the winning coach, with the likes of goalkeeper Mark Anderson, Mongi Rula and the Mugeyi brothers in the outfield.
1997 & 1998 – Chiefs and Sundowns fight for PSL supremacy
To understand the battle for supremacy in South African football, you’d have to look at the PSL in the early years. From the PSL formation in 1996 to the turn of the millenium, 10 of the 22 domestic Cup finalists were either Sundowns or Chiefs. The Brazilians also won the league in three of the first four seasons, while Chiefs finished 2nd thrice in the same period. The peak of these early battles was the 1998/99 title race, when both sides ended up on a record-setting 75 points, and could only be separated by goal difference, with Downs winning it.
The 1997 Rothmans Cup final was another battle in the war and it was equally tight, finishing 1-1, with both goals coming in the final 10 minutes of normal time – Thabang Lebese for Chiefs & Raphael Chukwu for Sundowns. Extra-time didn’t change the result, so a replay was contested four days later. Again, this ended 1-1 with Raphael Chukwu grabbing the equaliser late in normal time. The teams were inseparable. Amakhosi would win 3-2 on penalties.
240 – Chiefs and Sundowns played 240 minutes in the 1997 Rothmans Cup final, the longest any PSL sides have played without an outright winner in the tournament.
A similar story played out the following year. Same competition. Same teams. Similar result. 1-1 after 90 minutes, 1-1 in extra-time. 2-2 after extra time. Again, Chiefs won on penalties (2-1).
3 – Only three penalties were converted in the 1998 Rothmans Cup final penalty shootout (out of twelve), the fewest of all penalty shootouts in the tournament’s finals.
1999 – Mr Rothmans Cup
After two unsuccessful attempts, Sundowns finally won the Rothmans Cup in 1999, beating Free State Stars 2-0 in the final. This was the only Rothmans Cup final that did not need extra-time or a replay to be settled. Paul Dolezar had switched from Chiefs to Sundowns & seemed to have come with the lucky charm. They secured the double with a league title later.
3 – Paul Dolezar led Sundowns to the 1999 Rothmans Cup title, after leading Chiefs to the 1997 and 1998 titles. He is the only PSL coach to win the tournament in three straight years.
2000 – THE END OF DOMINANCE AND UPSETS ALL ROUND
The last tournament named the Rothmans Cup came in 2000. From the onset, the tournament was filled with upsets. Sundowns were eliminated in the 1st round by Moroka Swallows, and Chiefs suffered the same fate, at the hands of Ria Stars. Pirates and Ajax met in the final, with Pirates heavy favorites for the win. The game ended 1-1, a warning sent out by Ajax.
The Pirates line-up in the replay featured names you’re likely to see in many Pirates All-Time XIs: Williams Okpara, Papi Khomane, Joseph Ngake, Godfrey Sapula, Thabo Mngomeni, Steve Lekoelea, Tso Vilakazi, Pollen Ndlanya, Jerry Sikhosana and Denis Lota. The Buccaneers were thumped 4-1 by Ajax, true to the unpredictable nature of that tournament. At least, The Urban Warriors now had their revenge from the Top8 loss suffered four months earlier to Pirates.
RELATED STORY: PART 1-4: Top8 history
By Opta Jabu