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In-form Orlando Pirates need to keep on winning to reach African competition again

Olisa Ndah of Orlando Pirates challenged by Daylon Claasen and Friday Samu of Maritzburg United during the DStv Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on 24 May 2022. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Olisa Ndah of Orlando Pirates challenged by Daylon Claasen and Friday Samu of Maritzburg United during the DStv Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on 24 May 2022. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published May 25, 2022

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Johannesburg - The scramble for next season's Caf places could become a game of musical chairs if Royal AM win or draw against Orlando Pirates in Friday's DStv Premiership fixture at Chatsworth Stadium in Durban.

A draw for Royal AM (46 points) in their final Premiership match of the season will see them leapfrog from fifth to third place with 47 points. Currently in third place is Stellenbosch with 47 points and the next best is Kaizer Chiefs, also on 47 points in fourth place. Since Stellenbosch and Chiefs have completed the season, their statistics cannot change.

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Royal AM, at this stage, have a far superior goal difference which stands at 12 compared to Stellenbosch's nine. If, however, Royal AM lose, they will hang on to fifth place unless Pirates win by more than four goals. In that event, Stellenbosch will move ahead of Royal AM.

If Pirates (43) win even by more than four goals, very little will change in the landscape at the top of the standings. They will have 46 points, along with Royal AM and the goal difference will decide which team occupies fifth place.

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Should Royal AM win they will edge out the second-placed Cape Town City, who have also completed their fixtures. Both teams will be on 49 points, but Royal AM have a better goal difference.

As matters stand now, ahead of Friday's match, CT City and Mamelodi Sundowns are the only Premiership teams guaranteed to participate in Caf next season. Sundowns won the Premiership and will play in the Champions League. CT City cannot finish lower than third and that holds out the prospect of a Confederation Cup berth.

If Pirates win their remaining two matches (they also play SuperSport United away on Monday) they will end on 49 points and that will be enough to secure a CAF berth. Should pick up four points in their remaining two games there could be as many as five teams finishing on 47 points.

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As the saying goes the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Normally there are four Caf places up for grabs but that could easily become three by the time the final whistle blows in Saturday's Nedbank Cup final at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. In the highly unlikely event of Marumo Gallants defeating 12-time Premiership champions Sundowns they will qualify automatically for the Confederation Cup next season.

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In that event, only one other Premiership team (the team finishing third) will qualify for the Confederation Cup.

A betting man will wage a bet on Pirates winning their two remaining games on the strength of their current form. On Tuesday Pirates brushed a game Maritzburg United team aside with a 4-1 win. It was the first time since the 2020 season that Pirates scored four goals in the match.

Thembinkosi Lorch was very much the livewire for Pirates in that match and at the heart of the four-goal rush with a goal and three assists. The talisman midfielder produced a Man of the Match performance and if he carries over this form into the next two matches, Pirates will hit the jackpot with nine points from three games, and the green light into Africa.

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In the final game of the season, SuperSport host Pirates at the Lucas 'Masterpieces' Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville. At stake for SuperSport is a Top 8 which will be theirs for the taking if they defeat Pirates. In that event, SuperSport will move from 37 to 40 points and displace Lamontville Golden Arrows also 40 points, but with a poor goal difference.

@Herman_Gibbs

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