Bay and Royal AM in a derby six-pointer

Thabo Matlaba of Royal AM evades Simphiwe Mcineka of Richards Bay to score during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

Thabo Matlaba of Royal AM evades Simphiwe Mcineka of Richards Bay to score during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 2, 2024


ROYAL AM and neighbours Richards Bay will both be in need of the maximum points when they meet at the King Zwelithini Stadium tonight (8pm kick-off).

The two KwaZulu-Natal-based sides are languishing 14th (Royal AM) and 15th (Richards Bay) in the DStv Premiership standings respectively, thanks to a four-point difference.

They are not safe from relegation, either, especially with Bay leading the fast-improving Cape Town Spurs by six points.

So for Royal AM and Bay to try and save their top-flight statuses, which cost millions of rand, they have to salvage as many points as they can going forward.

There would be no better time for them to start living up to that reality other than coming out tops in the ‘six-pointer’ in uMlazi this evening.

AM will wear the favourites’ crown as they are in a better position, have the most points and one game in hand.

Following an impressive start to life in the top flight three seasons ago, AM have flattened in their performances in recent campaigns.

Their struggles this season were motivated by Fifa’s decision to bar the club from signing players until they had paid former striker Samir Nurkovic his money.

So the over-reliance on senior players and youngsters has not worked for ‘Thiwhli Thwahla’ as they have hit a downward trajectory recently.

And that’s not all. Players such as Mfundo Thikazi have struggled with form, making it difficult for coach John Maduka to have his best players at his disposal.

In the same breath, though, the tough times facing the club have called on Maduka to show his coaching prowess and get the best out of his players.

Maduka is no stranger to coming out tops in tough situations, having endured similar struggles at the defunct Bloemfontein Celtic for financial reasons.

But his job is cut out for him this season, especially when he comes up against teams such as the Natal Rich Boys, who are in their second season in the top flight.

Bay are not only tricky customers, but they have youthful players and a new technical staff.

Thulani Gumede, who scored a brace in the 3-2 win over Polokwane City in the Nedbank Cup last 32 last Sunday, is only 22 years of age.

And the squad itself has an average age of 26. Jackson Mabokgwane, 36, stands out as the oldest player in the squad.

Bay co-coach Vusumuzi Vilakazi, 41, is still finding his feet in the top flight, having had his first gig at Golden Arrows before joining Chippa United and the club.

So that blend of young coaches and players makes the team more exciting. They’ll be dangerous as they’ll be playing with nothing to lose against a team such as Royal AM.

Related Topics:

DStv Premiership