The KwaZulu Natal side are far from the chop this season, Kurt Lentjies and Co actually looking good for a top eight finish. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Who can forget the final day drama that played itself out at Olen Park out in Potchefstroom last season?

Maritzburg United’s survival in the Absa Premiership was stuff of fantasy, the Team of Choice pulling off a remarkable come-from-behind victory over a Jomo Cosmos outfit that only needed a draw to stay up.

The KwaZulu Natal side are far from the chop this season, Kurt Lentjies and Co actually looking good for a top eight finish.

Are we going to have a similarly dramatic ending this time around? It certainly looks like it. What with no less than four clubs, and mathematically five, in danger of the chop as the curtain falls on the 2016/17 season.

And the big drama could well happen out in Bethlehem where Free State Stars host Chippa United in a six-pointer.

A draw could be enough to see both sides – 14th and 13th on the log respectively – survive providing the sides below them, Highlands Park and Baroka FC do not win their matches.

The Lions of the North, second from bottom, host deposed champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who are keen to secure the runners-up berth to guarantee a fourth successive participation in the CAF Champions League.

Bottom-dwellers Baroka are away to a resurgent Ajax Cape Town outfit that is chasing a top eight finish.

Difficult matches for both rookie sides whose demotion will not leave many shedding a tear for the two sides who were their own worst enemies as they chopped and changes coaches.

Relegation from the country’s top league is pretty harsh though, the side that goes down to the National First Division (NFD) risks bankruptcy.

Such is the difference in the monetary rewards between the two leagues, as Premiership clubs receive a massive R1.5m monthly grant compared to the NFD’s R250 000.

It is for this reason, plus the fear of losing the opportunities to contest money-spinning competitions such as the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup that the four clubs can be expected to play out of their skins on Saturday.

It will be a case of too little too late for one of them that will get relegated automatically with the team finishing 15th getting the chance to survive via the play-offs.

Given what transpired at Olen Park last season though, not even 13th-placed Chippa can afford to take survival for granted.

It makes for a compelling afternoon of dramatic football.


The Star

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