Premium Journalist
3 minute read
25 Dec 2018
11:59 am

SA Premiership strugglers in for a rocky ride in the new year


While the Premiership title race is shaping up to be a three, four or even five-horse race, down at the bottom, there appear to be as many as seven teams who could be in for a relegation battle in the second half of the 2018/19 campaign.

Baroka celebrate their victory during the2018 Telkom Knockout Finals game between Baroka FC and Orlando Pirates at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth on 08 December 2018 © Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

On 20 points, mid-table teams Highlands Park and Cape Town City seem just about safe – another 10 or so points in 2019 should keep them clear of any trouble.

But from 10th-placed AmaZulu, sitting on 16 points, all the way down to Maritzburg United in 16th position on 11 points, it could be a stressful few months up to the season’s conclusion in May next year.

AmaZulu, who have had to recover from their six-point deduction, have done superbly to win four of their last five matches and move into a position of relative comfort at the Christmas break. The question now is if Cavin Johnson’s team have the capacity to keep the momentum going after ending the year with an accomplished 2-0 win over Golden Arrows.

If strike pairing Emiliano Tade and Bongi Ntuli, with nine goals between them in the league already, continue their partnership, the Durban side should be safe enough, and they’ll go into the recess far more optimistic than those teams below them.

In 11th spot and also on 16 points, Clinton Larsen’s Arrows have been in inconsistent form with just one win from their last five. They need Lerato Lamola to start firing in more goals and must hit the ground running next year.

Abafana bes’Thende can give themselves a big boost by beating Maritzburg United and Black Leopards, whom they face in their opening three fixtures, either side of a match against off-form Bloemfontein Celtic.

One place further down in 12th, Baroka FC managed to jump off the foot of the table with a win over Maritzburg last weekend, showing just how tight things are at the bottom. The Limpopo team, however, have been battling to score in the league – they’ve netted just nine in 15 matches, and it’s difficult to see where their next goals will be coming from.

Having failed to show the kind of form which won them the Telkom Knockout, Bakgaga could well be in the mix for relegation at the end of the season.

Fellow Limpopo club Black Leopards beat AmaZulu 3-1 in their most recent game to end the year in 13th spot. But on only 13 points, they are only two points above Maritzburg.

It is Lidoda Duvha’s defence which has been their problem – 20 goals conceded in 14 matches – the second worst record in the league, and an area which new coach Dylan Kerr will need to rectify if they are to survive their first season back in the top flight.

Below them, Free State Stars (14th) are also on 13 points, and have claimed just two points from the last possible 15.

The Bethlehem-based side have conceded 21, and scored just 12; years of being forced to sell off their best players to balance the books seemingly now catching up with a club who have in recent seasons reportedly been considering selling their top-flight status. Newly-appointed head coach Nikola Kavazovic looks like he’s going to have to inject some serious magic into an Ea Lla Koto team with very few potential match-winners in their squad.

In 15th spot, Chippa United have 12 points. A look at their squad though shows some decent quality and experience in the likes of Mark Mayambela, Thabo Rakhale, Kurt Lentjies, Daine Klate and Nigerian international goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, and it would be surprising if new coach Joel Masutha is unable to steer them to calmer waters.

For rock-bottom Maritzburg United, their problem is easy to identify – the KZN Midlands side have scored only five times in 14 outings.

In Andrea Fileccia and Yannick Zakri, they do possess two proven Premiership goal-scorers, and if those two can get firing in the new year, and the team can use their game in hand to good effect, all is not necessarily lost for them.

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