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South African NFD Preview

Highlands Park and CT All Stars are the only two teams to collect all 6 points in their opening 2 matches.
Highlands Park and CT All Stars are the only sides to collect all 6 points in their opening 2 matches.
The fight for places at the summit of the National First Division standings continues and after another scintillating week of football, only two teams have collected all possible six points in the opening two matches. Highlands Park have so far looked too strong for NFD sides and their intentions to get back to the Premier Soccer League are very clear. After a disastrous opener, Jomo Cosmos managed to return to winning ways in the second match with an emphatic 5-0 drubbing of University of Pretoria. This is what I think is likely to happen in the upcoming week:

Saturday 9 September

11/10 Mbombela United | Draw 21/10 | Real Kings FC 24/10 (15:00)

Mbombela United managed to return to winning ways last week, courtesy of a 3-1 victory at Super Eagles. The Mpumalanga Province-based outfit now lie eighth on the log and they will definitely fancy their chances at home against a winless Kings. Like I always say, Real Kings are known for their defensively-resolute approach to the game which sees them concede space at the top end of the pitch. That’s clearly evident in the two draws that they have played, back-to-back 1-1 scorelines. I’d love Kings to win this one but their lack of firepower upfront and over-reliance on set pieces and corners will work against them. Backing a draw is advisable.

14/10 Richards Bay | 21/10 | Mthatha Bucks 18/10 (15:00)

The newly-formed Richards Bay team is finding things hard in the second tier despite having a bulk of players who helped Thanda Royal Zulu secure promotion last season stay with them after the team sold its status to AmaZulu. They have only managed one point out of a possible six and this will be their opportunity to turn things around at home. Much to my surprise, Mthatha Bucks lie third on the NFD log at the early stages of the season and they are a real threat to the morning leaders. The team that finished 8th last season underwent a massive overhaul in pre-season, announcing 17 new signings and they seem to have gelled quickly. Bush Bucks are much stronger and I’m expecting them to win.

18/10 Royal Eagles | 21/10 | Stellenbosch FC 14/10 (15:00)

After acquiring the services of coach Alan Freese, I expected Royal Eagles to be a force to be reckoned with but a draw and defeat in their first two matches isn’t a great return. These results are an absolute contrast of their pre-season in which they showed signs of being ready to win the NFD by claiming the KZN Premier’s Cup that is contested by all KZN teams that are in the PSL and NFD. Despite losing Junaid Sait to Ajax Cape Town, Stellenbosch don’t look defensively shaky. They conceded one goal against an attack-minded Uthongathi FC in their first match without him. The Stellies have won one and drawn one of their opening two matches and they lie fifth on the log. This will be a tightly-contested encounter and I’m tipping a draw.

21/10 Tshakhuma FC |21/10 | Jomo Cosmos 12/10 (15:00)

Tshakuma have had a disastrous start to their NFD campaign, losing their first two matches without finding the back of the net. As a result, they anchor the table and there are no signs of cohesion in the way they play. The side that bought Milano FC’s status is suffering a baptism of fire in the second tier. Cosmos lost 1-0 to the table toppers in their NFD opener but they reacted well by beating University of Pretoria 5-0 to quickly move away from the relegation zone and give themselves a chance to compete for PSL promotion. Jomo Cosmos are more experienced and I’m confident they will oust their opponents.

12/10 Ubuntu Cape Town | 21/10 | Super Eagles 22/10 (15:00)

Ubuntu Cape Town have faced probable title contenders over their opening two matches and having one point at this stage of the season is no surprise to me. They lost 2-1 to Stellenbosch but managed to hold Black Leopards to a 2-all draw. They currently occupy 11th place on the log. NFD rookies, Super Eagles have been the whipping boys of the league so far, losing both their opening two matches. They lie second from the bottom with five goals conceded and only two scored. I’m tipping a victory for Ubuntu Cape Town here.

22/10 University of Pretoria| 21/10 | Highlands Park 12/10 (15:00)

It looks like University of Pretoria’s woes will continue into the new season as they have failed to win a single game and are currently third from bottom. There’s no improvement from the side that finished 12th last season. They have now even lost their winger, Innocent Nemukondeni to Ajax Cape Town. Highlands Park are enjoying life in the NFD with a 100% record ever since relegation to the second tier. They have managed to slightly edge out strong teams like Jomo Cosmos and Royal Eagles which should tell you how serious they are about regaining promotion. I’m expecting a comfortable win for Highlands Park.

Sunday 10 September

13/10 Witbank Spurs | 21/10 | Cape Town All Stars 2/1 (15:00)

The first two fixtures have been very kind to Witbank Spurs. They have amassed four points out of a possible six and that can be put down to the quality of their opponents. They downed the new kids on the block, Super Eagles and earned a point against Real Kings who are known for mainly focusing on their defensive structure. Cape Town All Stars’ current log position may come as a shock to most people but you must remember that both of the teams they played in their opening two matches are sort of newly-formed. They have beaten both Tshakuma and Richards Bay to be tied on points with the morning leaders at the summit of the NFD. I think the visitors’ confidence will propel them to a win.

18/10 Uthongathi FC | 21/10 | Black Leopards 14/10 (22:00)

Off the back of two 1-all draws, Uthongathi once again do battle with other NFD giants and they’re a team that plays enterprising football that is characterised by high tempo and dribbling. The Cane Cutters managed to hold Stellenbosch to a 1-all draw in their recent encounter which came after another credible 1-1 draw against Royal Eagles in the KZN derby. Lidoda Duvha’s long-lasting fear of losing Siphelele Ntshangase to PSL teams finally came to life as their former captain now plays for Baroka FC. Leopards’ overreliance on him was epitomised by a 2-2 draw against a probably far lesser Ubuntu Cape Town in their first match since his departure. I think these teams will cancel each other out.

TREBLE @ 14/1
Highlands Park Win 12/10
Jomo Cosmos Win 12/10
Mbombela vs Real Kings Draw 21/10

Written by Benedict Ngwenya