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South African NFD Preview

Highlands Parks’ promotion looks an absolute certainty and it’s difficult to bet against them these days
Highlands Park's promotion looks a certainty and it’s difficult to bet against them these days
Highlands Park's promotion looks an absolute certainty and it’s difficult to bet against them these days. The Lions of the North now hold a comfortable nine-point lead at the summit of the standings with nine matches to remaining after thumping Jomo Cosmos 4-0 on Sunday afternoon. Tshakhuma dropped to third after losing 3-1 at Cape Town All Stars with Real Kings leapfrogging them into second place. On the wrong end of the table, Ubuntu Cape Town, Mthatha Bucks and Royal Eagles are fighting to survive the dreaded chop. Uthongathi who are also in danger of being drawn into it, visit the rampant Highlands Park juggernaut. Will they hold their own?

Friday 23 February

Cape Town All Stars 9/10
Draw 22/10
Super Eagles 28/10

After an impressive display against Mamelodi Sundowns who only beat them 1-0 in the Nedbank Cup, Cape Town All Stars thrashed title-contending Tshakhuma 3-1 last week. Igugu Lekapa haven’t lost a home league encounter in the last eight matches. It hasn’t been too convincing for Super Eagles who are three points above the drop zone. The Free State outfit is winless in the last four matches and I don’t see them getting something out of this clash against a resurgent opponent away from home. Put your money on Igugu Lekapa to triumph.

Saturday 24 February

Mthatha Bucks 28/10
Draw 22/10
Black Leopards 9/10

This is a match between two teams with contrasting fortunes as Mthatha Bucks are going through a rough patch with a recent record of one win in five league matches. Amatholmnyama are second from the bottom. On the other hand, Black Leopards are the form team of the NFD with three back to back victories heading into this encounter. Lidoda Duvha have now amazingly climbed to fourth on the log which gives them an outside chance of fighting for PSL promotion through play offs. I’m going with form here, I say Leopards win.

Real Kings FC 6/10
Draw 5/2
Royal Eagles 17/4

Real Kings are still unbeaten at home this season after 10 matches! They are now second on the log and their solid defence has been a pillar of their strength. Last week, the Magic Boys claimed the KZN bragging rights and all three points when they downed Richards Bay 1-0. I would be very surprised to see Royal Eagles winning the KZN derby as they are enduring a three-match winless run and languishing in 14th place. Th appointment of Roger Sikhakhane who led Thanda Royal Zulu to promotion last season as head coach hasn’t paid dividends so far. I’m expecting Real Kings to keep King Zwelithini Stadium a fortress and record another victory.

Tshakhuma FC 9/10
Draw 22/10
Mbombela United 28/10

Tshakhuma relinquished second spot to Real Kings last week when they got thrashed 3-1 by Cape Town All Stars. That was their first home league defeat in seven matches. Manavhela will be determined to make amends and keep their promotion hopes alive against a lesser opponent at home. Mbombela are known for their inconsistency with an overall record of nine wins, eight defeats and four draws. You don’t know which Mbombela will pitch up on the day and they pose a serious banana skin threat to the promotion-chasing team. Tshakhuma are tipped to win this one.

Witbank Spurs 11/10
Draw 2/1
Richards Bay 5/2

Witbank lie eight on the log with a recent record of two wins, two draws and one defeat. Their log position might suggest that they have no chance to fight for promotion but they are only four points adrift of the top three, so why not give it a full go? Richards Bay occupy 13th spot and they are without a single win in their last four matches. They lost the KZN derby to Real Kings by a solitary goal the last time out and they face an insurmountable task in Mpumalanga Province. Back the home side for a victory!

Sunday 25 February

Highlands Park 4/10
Draw 28/10
Uthongathi 7/1

Highlands Park are just too strong for other NFD sides and they sent out a strong message to other rivals when they trounced title-contending Jomo Cosmos 4-0. They sit comfortably at the top with a healthy nine-point lead and they are unbeaten in the league since gameweek five, after which they’ve won 11 and drawn five matches. Things haven’t been so convincing for Sammy Troughton at Uthongathi as he has only won his first match since being appointed as the head coach, after which he has gone three matches without a win. Highlands Park should win this one easily.

Jomo Cosmos 13/10
Draw 2/1
Stellenbosch 2/1

Jomo Cosmos suffered their first home league defeat of their campaign, all thanks to a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Highlands Park. That has stretched Ezenkosi’s winless run to six games and that has seen them plummet to fifth on the log. Stellenbosch are sixth on the log and they head into this one having not tasted defeat in the last four matches. The Stellies shared the spoils with bottom-placed Ubuntu Cape Town last week who held them to a 1-1 draw. The momentum is with the visitors; hence I’m backing them.

Ubuntu Cape Town 18/10
Draw 19/10
University of Pretoria 15/10

University of Pretoria are one of the teams that still have a chance to contend for promotion as they are only three points adrift of the top three. They were held to a goalless draw by struggling Mthatha Bucks last week. Ubuntu Cape Town are another struggling side that meets AmaTuks and the table anchors are enduring a four-match winless run. However, they managed to hold Stellenbosch to 1-1 draw last week. This could be another draw.

TREBLE @ 3/1
Cape Town All Stars Win 9/10
Real Kings Win 6/10
Highlands Park Win 4/10

Written by Benedict Ngwenya