NFD Outright Preview

South African NFD
With the South African NFD drawing closer, take a look at our predictions for the upcoming campaign
Last season, Thanda Royal Zulu won the National First Division by a 12-point gap, leaving second and third-placed Black Leopards and Stellenbosch settling for play-off spots. Royal Eagles finished a point shy of third in a tightly contested top three race. Will the new kids on the block, Uthongathi FC pull a Leicester City on us? Here’s my prediction.

To Win Outright
Black Leopards 4/1 | Highlands Park 4/1 | Stellenbosch 5/1 | Royal Eagles 6/1 | Mbombela United 10/1 | Witbank Spurs 12/1

Winners

Royal Eagles – 6/1

After a nearly successful 2016/17 season for them, the KZN-based outfit, owned by business mogul Sibusiso Mpisane, has shown some signs of improvement and radical actions have been taken. General Manager Richard Makhoba was shown the exit door and they also parted ways with coach Kostadin Papic, who plays enterprising attacking football which happens to be defensively naive.

The new head coach, Allan Freese, is a seasoned campaigner with vast experience when it comes to winning. After rising to prominence by helping Platinum Stars win the MTN8 a few years ago, he secured the elite league promotion with Highlands Park two seasons ago. He has made it very clear that he wants to win the league and take the team to the PSL.

Their performances in the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s Cup this pre-season suggests they are ready to compete as they defended their crown by beating another NFD side Real Kings and a PSL side Golden Arrows in the tournament.

The Challengers

Black Leopards – 4/1

Lidoda Duvha were hoping to use the play-offs to gain PSL promotion last season but they found the going too hard against Baroka FC who won at home and drew in the return leg. However, Leopards were too strong for Stellenbosch as they drew 0-0 in Limpopo and won 3-1 in the Western Cape. 

This time Leopards will be hoping to avoid facing one of the PSL sides in the play-offs by winning the league and securing promotion automatically. Their loyal servant and captain, Siphelele Ntshangase has stuck with the team through thick and thin even after attracting PSL interest and featuring in the national team. Ntshangase is a very important plyer and he will help them challenge for the title this season.

Stellenbosch – 5/1

With star players like Kamaal Sait’s son, Junaid, the experienced Mame Niang and goalkeeper Washington Arubi, there’s no reason why they can’t have a competitive team. The youthful side suffered a baptism of fire in the recent play-offs and they must have learnt from the experience. Last season, they finished third against all odds and I foresee them achieving the feat again or even doing better as they have proved their credentials by winning important league matches last season against other front runners. I think the team will be in the top three but they’re jot strong enough to win the league.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya