DUEL for PSL spot

THE battle for promotion to the Absa Premiership between Black Leopards and Vasco da Gama begins at Tshifulanani Stadium, Thohoyandou, on Saturday when the sides meet in the opener of the two-legged event.

The winner of these playoffs will earn direct promotion to the elite league, where they will replace the team that finishes 16th on the Premiership table.

Leopards coach Vladislav Heric said he was happy that all his players returned to training on Monday without injuries.

Heric also strongly believes that they will overcome the Capetonians, who could battle to cope with the sweltering heat in Thohoyandou.

"The boys showed a great deal of commitment and eagerness at training and I don't see us losing to Da Gama come Saturday. Our aim is to win convincingly at home to make our job easier in the second leg in Cape Town," Heric said.

The Serbian mentor will hope that the experience of the likes of Malawian international Robert Ng'ambi, Christopher Netshidzivhe and Walter Ramulondi will return them to the top flight.

Da Gama coach Carlos das Neves said they had not done anything special for the playoffs.

"We are going to play our normal football and nothing special," said the outspoken coach.

"We will be focused and disciplined to ensure that we close them out from the wings, where they are dangerous. We will create as many opportunities as possible to ensure that we score away from home. We have good players who can stand against Leopards' experienced squad."

Da Gama's trusted soldiers include Bradley August, Posnett Omony, Brian Kgafane, Geoffrey Sserunkume and Keenan Lesch.

Leopards have been playing at this 3000-seat venue after their traditional base Thohoyandou Stadium fell into a state of dilapidation.

This tragedy happened after the local municipality allegedly failed to maintain the facility that used to host big matches featuring Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns.