As the DStv Premiership season draws to a close, a battle is brewing at the bottom of the table, and the team to finish last is still uncertain with five rounds of league action remaining.
Maritzburg United, having secured just 24 points in the current campaign, finds themselves in a precarious position. Despite their talented squad and Fadlu Davids as their coach, their poor form this season has been surprising for many pundits. Though some still anticipate the team’s escape from the relegation zone, Maritzburg United needs to improve their performance significantly.
With the most number of losses (13 out of 25 games) and one of the worst goal differences (having conceded 35 goals while only scoring 19), the KwaZulu-Natal club needs to change their fortunes quickly. John Maduka was replaced by Fadlu Davids, while Maduka returned to Royal AM.
Their upcoming five matches are not going to be easy, and their fate could be determined in their next three games. These three matches include a home game against Richards Bay, followed by two away games against teams also fighting to avoid relegation, Swallows and a revitalized Marumo Gallants at Harry Gwala Stadium. If Chippa United fails to obtain favorable results in these games, they might struggle to deal with the challenges posed by Stellenbosch and reigning champions Sundowns in their last two matches.
Chippa United‘s performance has been consistently poor lately, and their recent loss to Marumo Gallants has caused them to drop into 15th position – the promotion playoff spot – as Gallants strive to escape relegation. Additionally, their defeat to Sekhukhune United on Sunday saw them eliminated from the Nedbank Cup.
With only 26 points, their fate appears to be in the hands of Siyabulela Gwambi, who is their fourth coach this season, although rumours suggest that Lehohonolo Seema may take over as the fifth coach. Whoever takes the helm, they will face a challenging final four games, including hosting Kaizer Chiefs, before playing away games against Richards Bay and TS Galaxy, and then finishing off at home against Golden Arrows.
The schedule ahead looks challenging, and Chippa Mpengesi must be feeling the pressure. Chippa United has had a tough time with their previous coaches, including Daine Klate, Morgan Mammila, and Kurt Lentjies. Siyabulela Gwambi, the current coach, has already faced two defeats in his first two games, and this may not bode well for his future with the team.
Moroka Swallows’ goal difference has put them behind Gallants, and with only 28 points, they are at risk of being dragged into the relegation fight, especially if other results do not go their way. In his first season as coach, Musa Nyatama is facing a daunting task. Dylan Kerr started the season as coach but had work permit issues and was later fired soon after receiving it. Ernst Middendorp took over but left a few months later to coach a team in Germany’s third division. Nyatama returned as caretaker coach, with Morgan Mammila as technical advisor.
Swallows’ next game against Stellenbosch is expected to be a challenge as they are pushing for a top-eight spot, and two games against relegation contenders will follow. They will play against Maritzburg at home after Stellenbosch and then have away games against Chiefs and Royal AM. Their final match of the season will be at home against Gallants.
In recent weeks, Marumo Gallants have surpassed expectations and exceeded predictions, with their impressive climb from the bottom of the league table to reach 28 points. Not only did they defy the odds by qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup quarter-finals, but they also managed to climb out of the relegation zone.
The destiny of Marumo Gallants is in their own hands, as they face a daunting task in both the CAF Confederation Cup against Pyramids and in their domestic fixtures. The clash against Maritzburg United is particularly significant, followed by a game against Sundowns and a season-ending encounter against Swallows. Gallants’ technical team, led by Raymond Mdaka and consultant Dylan Kerr, has undergone changes this season, with Romain Folz and Dan Malesela previously at the helm. Meanwhile, AmaZulu is also at risk of relegation, sitting five points off the bottom spot with 29 points.
A tough run-in awaits Ayanda Dlamini’s Usuthu, who replaced Romain Folz in their managerial position. SuperSport United away will be followed by home matches against Sekhukhune United and Mamelodi Sundowns, then an away trip to Golden Arrows, and finally a home tie against Orlando Pirates. While it is improbable for all of the bottom five clubs to achieve positive results, TS Galaxy and Stellenbosch, both on 30 points, and Richards Bay, on 31 points, should also be wary of their positions. However, these teams will be focused on breaking into the top eight, with Richards Bay struggling in recent games