Iqraam Rayners of Stellenbosch FC challenged by Gabriel Hlongwa of Cape Town All Stars during and NFD match. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Any one of 15 of the 16 teams that make up the National First Division are in the running to lift the title a game short of a third of the way through the season, with eight points separating the top side from the second bottom one.

After round nine of a 30-match programme, Highlands Park of Johannesburg are top on 16 points, with Stellenbosch FC, who were top, now trailing on goal difference, while the University of Pretoria and Mbombela United are deadlocked in third spot.

Then comes a group of eight with six points behind the frontrunners, followed by three of the final four a point or two back, leaving Ubuntu FC, who are still winless after nine games (five draws) to bring up the rear.

Action today sees Park entertaining Stellenbosch at Makhulong Stadium.

A table-topping affair between two rivals who have combined for an eight-week stay at the summit. Current form suggest the home side will be hard to beat; Park are on an unbeaten four-game run, but when you consider their previous five meetings with their Cape opponents, The Lions of the North have only triumphed once.

However, with Stellenbosch performing below-expectations of late, zero goals or wins from previous three outings (two draws) for the men from the winelands, who knows what outcome awaits.

Mbombela and second-bottom Richard’s Bay meet with both camps hoping for maximum points. The former from Mpumalanga hope to stay in the top three with a home win, while the Bay, after three draws, will be eyeing a rare three points which would move the KwaZulu-Natal outfit out of the drop zone.

Sixth-placed Cape Town All Stars welcome 10th-placed Real Kings at Athlone Stadium.

Both sides collected 1-0 wins last week, with All Stars beating Royal Eagles of Natal to end a two-game losing streak while Eagles triumphed over East-London-based Mthatha Bucks for their second win.

The day’s remaining three fixtures see Witbank Spur (seventh) hosting Royal Eagles (13th) and Bucks (eighth) entertaining Super Eagles (14th), while Ubuntu find themselves up in Limpopo for a bout with mid-table Tshakhuma Tsha Madzihandila,

There are two matches tomorrow, with Tuks at home to Uthongathi FC (11th) and former PSL side Jomo Cosmos (fifth) hosting Black Leopards (12th).

Weekend Argus

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