Cosmos, Leopards favourites for play-off spots
With Highlands Park having already clinched automatic promotion from the National First Division (NFD) to the Absa Premiership last week, two former top-flight clubs in Black Leopards and Jomo Cosmos look favourites to secure play-offs berths, with only four games to spare.
Leopards are second on the standings on 44 points, two points ahead of third-placed Cosmos. Lidoda Duvha are unbeaten if their last eight matches, looking at their current form, the Venda-based club are unlikely to drop the ball at the last hurdle. Their play-offs ambitions are also boosted by having the NFD’s top-scorer Mwape Musonda who has netted 14 goals thus far.
Meanwhile, Ezenkosi have scored 10 goals in their last three matches, conceding four. Having dropped to the NFD in the 2015/16 season, Cosmos are determined to keep their third spot until the last match of the campaign. Their impressive goal scoring record gives them advantage as they are the second highest scoring team with 40 goals, 15 adrift of Highlands.
Should it happen that Leopards and Cosmos take their eyes off the prize, teams like Real Kings, Witbank Spurs and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila have credentials to seize the moment and capitalise in the run –in to finish second and third.
Fourth-placed Kings will rely on the experience of Phumelele Bhengu. The 2014/15 season second tier’s top-scorer with 22 goals while still at Thanda Royal Zulu has been influential for Kings thus far, having netted five goals. The KZN-based side also boasts Nkosingiphile Phewa, who is in scintillating form with 11 goals. Kings are only two points adrift of Cosmos.
Spurs battled with consistency at the start of the season but the Mpumalanga-based club has since redeemed themselves. By signing former Baroka captain Olaleng Shaku last month, Spurs showed they mean business in their play-off berth pursuit. They are on 39 points.
Despite losing three of their last games, you cannot write Tshakhuma off. The Sello Chokoe-coached club are sixth on the table, on 36 points. The NFD newcomers cannot afford any slip-ups.
NFD FIXTURES (all at 3pm)
Saturday: Uthongathi v Ubuntu, Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium; Mbombela v Stellenbosch, Kabokweni Stadium; Tshakhuma v Kings, Thohoyandou Stadium; AmaTuks v CPT All Stars, Absa Tuks Stadium; Richards Bay v Super Eagles, Umhlathuze Sports Complex; Highlands v Bucks, Makhulong Stadium.
Sunday: Spurs v Leopards, Puma Rugby Stadium; Royal Eagles v Cosmos, Harry Gwala Stadium.