Spectre of relegation returns to haunt KZN clubs

Head coach of AmaZulu Pablo Franco Martin (left) hasn’t really made Usuthu the competitive outfit promised during his initial run. | BackpagePix

Head coach of AmaZulu Pablo Franco Martin (left) hasn’t really made Usuthu the competitive outfit promised during his initial run. | BackpagePix

Published May 15, 2024


Smiso Msomi

The latter stages of the 2023/2024 DStv Premiership have presented a worrying turn for the worst for an already anxious KwaZulu-Natal football audience.

The province has had a front row seat to a worrying decline in the province’s aspirations as well as numbers in the top flight. The conclusion of last season saw the heartbreaking end of Maritzburg United as a top-level side as they were eliminated via the promotion/relegation play-offs.

AmaZulu, Golden Arrows, Royal AM, Richards Bay and the Team of Choice were all still in danger of suffering the dreaded drop in the final stages of the previous campaign, and that should have concerned KZN club owners.

Now, with two games of the regular season remaining, those exact nightmares have made a horrific return with the Natal Rich Boyz and Thwihli Thwahla battling to avoid the play-offs this term.

Head coach of Richards Bay Vusimuzi Vilakazi. | Backpagepix

After Royal AM’s defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns earlier on Saturday, Richards Bay made up ground on them with a famous win over Orlando Pirates in Soweto.

Richards Bay moved to 27 points while Royal AM remained on 29, spelling danger for the Pietermaritzburg-based side.

Four of the bottom seven positions in the league standings are currently occupied by KZN clubs once again this season, with AmaZulu still mathematically linked to possible relegation as well.

Even though it is unlikely that Pablo Martin and his men will be dragged into the quagmire, as they are just a point away from guaranteeing their safety, rings of apprehension are expected to be sounding once again.

The club dismissed Romain Folz and were guided to safety by Ayanda Dlamini last season. Twelve months later, they find themselves in a similar predicament having changed coaches and made massive changes to their squad.

Royal AM, on the other hand, have been hamstrung by their inability to sign players.

Head coach John Maduka now seems a man under pressure, having seen his side lose four of their past five games and drop into the relegation discussion as a result.

The play-offs have proven to be tricky for top-flight sides in recent years.

The recently-relegated Cape Town Spurs became the fourth team to topple a top-flight side and win promotion via the play-offs in the past nine years with the likes of Highlands Park, Jomo Cosmos and Black Leopards doing it as well.

In order to avoid this fate, Thwihli Thwahla will need to navigate fixtures against Chippa United and Moroka Swallows thereafter, with at least another four points guaranteeing their safety.

For Richards Bay, the possibility of a miraculous comeback remains as they seek to collect six valuable points from Cape Town City and Stellenbosch.