The PSL’s promotional play-offs are not for the faint at heart. Over the years, I’ve seen them make big men cry.
And I, for one, believe that they, in their current format, are an unfair way to decide who moves up – or stays – in the elite league.
The play-offs sees the two teams that finished second and third in the NFD battling it out with the second-bottom outfit in the Absa Premiership for the right to play in South Africa’s top tier division the following season.
I’ve always advocated for the PSL to switch their relegation and promotion format to see two teams drop from the Premiership and two go up from the NFD. Then have the team that finishes 14th in the elite division square off with the NFD’s third-placed side in a play-off.
That way, we will no longer have this situation where a team has a bad season, like Baroka FC did, retaining their Premiership status at the expense of a side that toiled hard to be second best in the NFD.
Worse still, the play-offs can actually see a team that finished third in the NFD get promoted ahead of a club that were runners-up.
That, though, is a matter for the PSL clubs to fight to fix, providing they see it my way of course.
For now, the play-offs are the way they are and this year we will once again have two teams from my home province, Limpopo, in the contest.
David Thidiela’s Black Leopards will battle it out with Baroka, as well as Stellenbosch FC – the latter two sides opening the six-match campaign in the Western Cape tomorrow.
A few seasons ago, Leopards battled it out with Polokwane City for promotion and the team from Thohoyandou came unstuck. I vividly remember how Thidiela had been hopeful of seeing his team return to the elite league, only for Polokwane – who’d finished 15th – to beat them to it.
The memory of a broken Thidiela, sitting in the stands at Giyani Stadium, watching his players bowling their eyes out off the pitch, lingers.
Leopards also had another close shave three seasons ago when Jomo Cosmos beat them and Moroka Swallows in the play-offs.
They are back again this time and you can bet Thidiela is again nursing hopes of seeing his team return to the top table of local football.
And to do so they have to get the better of a Baroka side they don’t really see eye to eye with, since that bad fight they had over Edgar Manaka. And then there’s also Stellenbosch FC in the mix – a team they had the better of in the NFD.
There is going to be heartbreak for some once again, but surely it is about time the PSL clubs voted for a different format of the play-offs?