Dlamini still confident of rescuing AmaZulu from relegation

AmaZulu coach Ayanda Dlamini.
AmaZulu coach Ayanda Dlamini.
Image: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

It appears that the Premier Soccer League’s bio-bubble has been too hot for the three KwaZulu-Natal clubs to swim in‚ more so for AmaZulu FC who’ve entered it already burdened with the perennial responsibility of finding points to escape relegation.

But for Usuthu coach Ayanda Dlamini the struggles of their neighbours‚ Martizburg United and Lamontville Golden Arrows‚ pales into insignificance when compared to that of his team who have relegation to avoid in their last three matches.

Usuthu face a crucial do or die clash against fellow strugglers Black leopards on Saturday at Lucas Moripe Stadium (kickoff 3.30pm).

AmaZulu are currently one point off the foot of the 16-team Absa Premiership table having collected 25 points in 27 matches. Polowkwane City are in last place (24 from 27).

Dlamini‚ an AmaZulu striker between 2009 and 2016‚ told TimesLive this week that the relegation of the club would reverberate through KZN and affect a lot of people‚ and indeed some businesses‚ if it was allowed to happen again‚ just as has been on a few occasions now in the PSL era.

“It’s a big fight‚” Dlamini said when asked of the mammoth task to ensure Usuthu survive.

“AmaZulu are a very important team to the people of KZN and the Zulu nation. So we have to try and fight with everything that we have to keep the team in the PSL.”

After taking over the team from former coach Jozef Vukusic‚ Dlamini has done relatively well in his four games‚ winning the first one against log leaders Kaizer Chiefs in March before winning two points in three matches played in the bubble.

One might imagine Dlamini‚ a trained nurse‚ having sleepless somewhere in a team hotel in Gauteng these days‚ trying to devise plans to help the team that brought him into the spotlight after growing up in Kwa-Ceza in the rural northern parts of KZN.

“Ja‚ it’s very difficult‚” said Dlamini of the task of saving his team.

“There’s pressure. Every day you think about the situation but‚ ja‚ I’m handling the pressure very well with the support that I have from everyone here in the team. I think everything is going well so far‚ so we just have to do our job.”

Dlamini admitted Usuthu have to go for broke in the last three matches‚ which include clashes against Stellenbosch FC next Wednesday and Highlands Park next Saturday.

“All three games are equally important to us in our fight against relegation‚” said the 35-year-old coach.

“So we’ll try to take each and every game as it comes. The focus now is with the Black Leopards game. We’ll have to put everything in that game to try and win and get maximum points.”

Encouraging for Dlamini is that Leopards game comes at a time when striker Lehlohonolo Majoro has just scored back-to-back goals in AmaZulu’s last two games against Bidvest Wits (a 2-1 loss) and Bloemfontein Celtic (2-2).

The KZN team have been struggling to find scorers‚ with 12 of their 17 goals coming from striker Bongi Ntuli‚ who’s yet to find feet and score a goal in the bubble.

“Ja he’s done very well for us‚” Dlamini said of the striker‚ “so he’s a very important player for us.

“We need him to start scoring again and hopefully he’s going to do that maybe in the coming games.

“He’s very important but the fact that we have ‘Major’ [Majoro] now also scoring is a big‚ big boost. And it’s also taking pressure away from Ntuli’s shoulders. So I think he will focus more on his game and start scoring again.”

While Dlamini’s team faces the axe‚ Eric Tinkler’s Maritzburg United are not yet assured of finishing inside the top half of the Absa Premiership table.

But the Team of Choice can’t be too happy with the fact that in three matches they’ve played in Gauteng‚ they’ve only added two points from a possible nine.

Tinkler’s team remain in sixth spot but have a lot to do in their last three games against Highlands Park on Saturday‚ Orlando Pirates next Wednesday and Bloemfontein Celtic next Saturday to remain in the top eight.

The worst of performers among this KZN trio has been Steve Komphela’s Lamontville Golden Arrows‚ who have only picked up one point in four matches in the bubble‚ their form quickly diminishing their chances of finishing inside the top eight.

Eleventh-placed Arrows face Cape Town City at the Ellis Park on Saturday before wrapping up their campaign against Celtic and Chippa United.

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