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Can Stars Become Treble Champs?

It has been a fantastic campaign so far for Platinum Stars, but are Dikwena done or will they continue surprising by snatching a treble?

In just half a season, Stars have emerged as double champions - with the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout sitting comfortably in the trophy cabinet. This comes after an outstanding 2012/13 league run where they finished as runners-up, a point behind champions Kaizer Chiefs in the ABSA Premiership.

At the end of last season, they saw coach Cavin Johnson leave for SuperSport United though, along with star player Thuso Phala - who had regularly produced the goods for his club and earned a spot in Gordon Igesund's Bafana Bafana.

There was no need to start rebuilding though, as Allan Freese stepped in and ensured that his charges continued shooting to the top. First came the MTN8, and Stars started with aplomb, hammering Free State Stars 3-0 to ease into the next round.

They were then faced with a tough task against an ever improving Wits side, who had beaten Bloemfontein Celtic 3-0 in their opening game of the tournament.

Dikwena were on fire though, and ran out 4-2 winners in their first-leg battle with the Clever Boys, before completing the win with a 2-1 triumph in the second-leg.

Their last hurdle came in the form of an Orlando Pirates side boosted by a phenomenal run in the CAF Champions League, but Robert Ng'ambi put them on course to victory before Thabo Matlaba smashed in a trademark goal late on to force extra-time. Stars needed a bit of luck in extra-time but eventually ran out winners with a 3-1 penalty shootout win.

Thoughts of a cup win hangover surfaced but there would be no headache for supporters of the Crocodiles, as Stars got things started with a 2-0 win over Maritzburg.

Things then got considerably tougher but Dikwena showed that they were no pushovers, dismissing the in-form Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 before dumping Kaizer Chiefs out of the competition in the semi-finals.

Yet another final was on the cards, and yet again, the Buccaneers stood in the way. After finishing second best in both the Champions League and the MTN8, many pundits expected a case of 'third-time lucky' for the Sea Robbers.

It seemed to be the case for much of the battle between Stars and Pirates in the showpiece clash - that was until Mogakolodi Ngele stepped onto the pitch in the 66th minute and went on to sink two sensational late goals to hand Stars the crown.

Their cup runs have certainly had an effect on their league run so far, but they remain in fifth place with 22 points - eight off of leaders Kaizer Chiefs and just three being second-placed Sundowns, though the Brazilans have a game in hand.

But there is also the Nedbank Cup to come, a tournament which Stars have struggled to win but have not fared too badly in - having played in three quarter-finals and two semi-finals over the last 10 years.

Last season, Dikwena came agonisingly close to a place in the final but lost 3-2 to eventual runners-up SuperSport United thanks to an extra-time penalty.

Stars will definitely look back on 2013 with fond memories, having won 23 of the 40 games they played in all competitions - drawing nine and losing just eight. They knocked in 62 goals in that time, and conceded 34 at the same time.

With Freese having been tied up on a long-term contract and the players brimming with confidence, will Stars defy the odds to become treble champions this season?

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