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South African NFD Preview

Last week was an interesting one for the NFD teams, with cagey affairs all over the country.
Last week was an interesting one for the NFD teams, with cagey affairs all over the country.
Last week was an interesting one for the National First Division teams, with cagey affairs all over the country. Only one game game produced more than two goals, and if you anticipated that, you were on the money. Two KwaZulu-Natal derbies were on the menu with Richards Bay hosting Real Kings and Uthongathi FC entertaining Royal Eagles in scintillating encounters which both ended in 1-1 stalemates. All teams are in action again this week as round two takes centre stage – here are our predictions:

Friday 25 August

1/1 Cape Town All Stars | Draw 21/10 | Richards Bay 5/2 (15:00)

Cape Town All Stars finished in the bottom half of the log last season and they are looking to turn that around in the current campaign. They made their intentions clear when they recorded a 1-0 victory at Tshakhuma in their opener, making them one of only five teams to win their first matches this season. Richards Bay was formed to fill the gap left by Thanda Royal Zulu, after the club sold its PSL status to AmaZulu and they drew their opener 1-1 against Real Kings. This team inherited a bulk of Thanda Royal Zulu’s league winning squad and their technical team, including head coach Roger Sikhakhane. This will be a tough assignment for Richards Bay away from home and I’m expecting it to end in a draw.

Saturday 26 August

15/10 Real Kings FC | 2/1 | Witbank Spurs 17/10 (15:00)

Known for their defensively resolute approach to the game, Real Kings managed to hold Richards Bay FC to a 1-1 draw away from home last week. That must be a huge morale-booster considering the fact that Richards Bay comprises a bulk of players that gained automatic promotion with Thanda Royal Zulu last season before the team sold its PSL status to AmaZulu. Witbank Spurs got their season off to a winning start with an emphatic 2-0 victory at home against Super Eagles. They currently top the standings on goal difference and that is a big statement by the team that finished seventh last season. This will be a game between a defensive, counter-attacking team and an offensive side and I’m expecting them to cancel each other out.

18/10 Royal Eagles | 2/1 | Highlands Park 14/10 (15:00)

Last season’s top three contenders, Royal Eagles, were held to a 1-1 draw by new kids on the NFD block, Uthongathi FC, at Princess Magogo Stadium on Saturday. The team seems to be playing very well under the tutelage of Allan Freese and they have one ambition: to win the league and gain PSL promotion. Highlands Park’s first NFD match since relegation was a 1-0 victory over Jomo Cosmos on Saturday. The side is very lucky to still have players that have PSL experience like captain Tapuwa Kapini and I’m expecting them to be competitive again this season. This is a six-pointer and I foresee Freese’s Eagles managing to edge out the team he helped secure PSL promotion two seasons ago.

8/10 Stellenbosch FC | 23/10 | Uthongathi FC 3/1 (15:00)

Losing Junaid Sait to Ajax Cape Town was expected to leave a huge void in the Stellenbosch defence, but they seem to have dealt with his departure very well as they didn’t show any signs of being defensively shaky in their opener against Ubuntu Cape Town, which they won 2-1. They made it to PSL promotional play-offs last season but they were not strong enough to get the better of Baroka FC and they will be hoping to gain promotion automatically this season. The NFD rookies, Uthongathi, played convincingly against one of the league’s most competitive sides, Royal Eagles, holding them to a 1-1 draw at Princess Magogo Stadium. The team is known for its high tempo football but they can’t be defensively naive away from home and I’m expecting them to approach this one with a great deal of caution. I like Uthongathi, but I think they will lose this one.

15/10 Super Eagles | 2/1 | Mbombela United 17/10 (15:00)

Newly-promoted Super Eagles experienced a baptism of fire in their clash against Witbank Spurs which they lost 2-0 and they will be looking to return to winning ways at home against Mbombela United. Super Eagles must remember that Mbombela finished sixth on the log last season so this is going to be an even sterner test. After finishing six points adrift of the play-off spots, Mbombela United will be looking to improve this season and push the promotion front-runners to the limit. They lost 1-0 to Black Leopards n their first match of the season and playing against the rookies presents a golden opportunity for them to redeem themselves. Mbombela are tipped to record a narrow victory away from home.

Sunday 27 August

11/20 Black Leopards | 24/10 | Ubuntu Cape Town 5/1 (15:00)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Leopards win the league or make it to the pay-offs again this season. They have one of the strongest squads in the league and they kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win away to Mbombela United. Siphelele Ntshangase’s move to Baroka FC seems imminent but while he’s still part of the team, he’s being put to good use. Having finished 13th on the log last season, Ubuntu Cape Town’s woes continued in the new season as they opened with a 2-1 defeat at home against Stellenbosch. The team has only ever beaten Black Leopards in their history, losing eight times and drawing once. I’m backing Leopards’ dominance to continue in Limpopo.

12/10 Jomo Cosmos | 21/10 | University of Pretoria 21/10 (15:00)

The yo-yo team of South African football that’s known for gaining PSL promotion only to go back down, Jomo Cosmos, started badly, losing 1-0 to Highlands Park. Over the last two seasons, Ezenkosi have lost some key players like Thabang Monare and Charlton Mashumba to PSL teams and they’re on a rebuilding phase as we speak. Shaun Bartlett’s men have been on a decline over the last two seasons. They got relegated in the middle of 2016 and they finished the next season in 12th place on the NFD standings. Amatuks kicked off this season with a 1-1 draw at home to Mthatha Bucks. Another cagey affair is expected with Cosmos applying defensive tactics. I’m backing a low scoring match with a draw tipped at 21/10.

8/10 Mthatha Bucks | 23/10 | Tshakhuma FC 3/1 (15:00)

Just when everyone thought Mthatha Bucks have amassed there points away from home at University of Pretoria, they relinquished the lead and shared the spoils. Having finished in eighth place last season, Amatholamnyama signed 17 players for the current campaign and the overhaul seems to be doing them a world of good if their previous performance is anything to go by. Tshakhuma, who bought the status of Milano United, got beaten 1-0 at home by Cape Town All Stars. It shall be very interesting to see how the new owners manage the Limpopo-based outfit which has to now deal with life in the second tier. Mthatha Bucks should win this one at home.

TREBLE @ 7/1
Royal Eagles Win 18/10
Stellenbosch Win 8/10
Black Leopards Win 11/20

Written by Benedict Ngwenya