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National First Division title race goes down to the wire on Sunday

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Kahleho Maphathe of Richards Bay is challenged by Wonderboy Makhubu of University of Pretoria during their GladAfrica Championship match at Tuks Stadium in April.
Kahleho Maphathe of Richards Bay is challenged by Wonderboy Makhubu of University of Pretoria during their GladAfrica Championship match at Tuks Stadium in April.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The National First Division (NFD) goes down to the wire on the final weekend of the season on Sunday with leaders Richards Bay and University of Pretoria (Tuks) vying for automatic promotion to the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

Advantage is with Richards Bay who need a win against Cape Town City at the King Goodwill Zwelithini Stadium to be declared champions, while Tuks’ fate is not in their own hands.

For Tuks to be gain automatic promotion to the PSL, they need victory with at least three goals against Hungry Lions at home while at the same time hoping that Richards Bay lose or draw against Cape Town City.

Speaking before this important match against Hungry Lions, Tuks co-captain Frank Mpedi admitted it is a huge challenge, but they will give their all.

“Since 2018, the one thing I wanted to tick off on my bucket list is to help Tuks qualify for the premier league and now we are in with a chance,” he said as they prepared for the match.

“We are a young team, but what we might lack in experience we make up for in passion and football savviness. We know how to play the game.

“Our journey over the past few months had been remarkable. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time, because coach Tlisane Motaung has assembled a fantastic team. There is no questioning anyone's work ethic."

Mpedi, who captained Tuks to Varsity Cup victory in 2017, urged players to give 100% on the field as anything can happen in their match and the one involving Richards Bay.

In their last match against Cape Town City last weekend in Athlone, Tuks were held to a 2-2 draw and Mpedi said it was a missed opportunity.

“We needed to win against Cape Town City, preferably without conceding any goals. Unfortunately, the evening before the game, most of us contracted a stomach bug. It had a significant impact on our performance. I could only play one half as I had no energy left.

“Playing to a draw is not the result we wanted. There are now a lot of variables at play. We need to beat the Hungry Lions and score as many goals as we can, and then we have to hope Spurs win or draw against Richards Bay.

“If every card falls into place we are in the premier league; if not, we will have to play a promotion-relegation game. I would rather not."

“The Lions are a good team. I watched their game against JDR Stars. They have quick players with good ball-handling skills, so we need to be aware of the pace they play at and bring our 'A-game'.

“Most crucial is that we make every opportunity to score count. We have not always been able to do so. Our defence has been solid throughout the tournament, but Sunday's game is the one we can't afford to concede any goals.”

Full NFD Fixtures (Sunday, all 3pm): Cape Town All Stars v JDR Stars, Richards Bay v Cape Town Spurs, Pretoria Callies v Jomo Cosmos, Venda Football Academy v Free State Stars, Platinum City Rovers v Black Leopards, University of Pretoria v Hungry Lions

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