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Race for third in PSL going down to the wire

Jabulani Ncobeni of Royal AM FC during the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Golden Arrows at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban on 14 May 2022. Picture: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Jabulani Ncobeni of Royal AM FC during the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Golden Arrows at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban on 14 May 2022. Picture: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Published May 20, 2022

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Johannesburg - The final day of the DStv Premiership season on Saturday might determine the last two teams that will join Mamelodi Sundowns in continental football next season.

On another day, the two teams that would have finished second and third on standings after match-day 30 would secure their Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup spots in the next term.

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But that might not be the case, given that Orlando Pirates were played in the Confederation Cup final on Friday, while they are still within touching distance of finishing third and qualifying for the same competition next season.

But be that as it may, the top of the table clash between champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Royal AM out at the Chatsworth Stadium will not serve as a dead rubber. There’s a lot at stake for the latter.

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Sundowns head into the match knowing that they’ll be officially crowned champions for a fifth successive term, but Royal AM are eyeing a continental qualification in their first attempt.

Royal AM are third on the standings with 46 points, three ahead of Cape Town City who’ve played a game more.  If they get three points against the Brazilians, they’ll pull themselves closer to the ‘promised land’.

But that’s easier said than done. Sundowns are hoping to be crowned in style, making up for the 3-0 loss to Stellenbosch, while starting their preparations for the Nedbank Cup final against Marumo Gallants next week.

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The two side which usually keep their structure going forward. Their two frontmen, Downs’ Peter Shalulile and Royal AM’s Victor Letsoalo, are also in the running for Footballer of the Season award.

With the right supply, from the engine room that has Andile Jali who’s in the running for five awards, Shalulile will be eyeing at least a hat-trick that will see him equal Collins Mbesuma’s record of 25 league goals in a season.

But perhaps, the main attraction of the day will be served at FNB Stadium where continental and survival hopefuls Kaizer Chiefs and Swallows will cross paths.

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Chiefs are fourth on the log and level with Royal AM on 46 points. They need to beat neighbours Swallows if they are to qualify for continental football next season, although that will come if other teams do favours for them.

A Chiefs win though could also relegate Swallows in only their second season back in the top-flight as the latter are languishing in the hazardous relegation quagmire. They are 15th.

Chiefs have the upper hand on paper and in personnel, although stranger things have happened in football. Chiefs’ win could also launch the preparations for the new season, especially if Arthur Zwane is going to be at the helm.

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Zwane has spoken candidly of how players must live up to the billing of being the “Glamour Boys” going forward, while those who’ve been under par will be offloaded and replaced by the right quality.

The game against Swallows will therefore serve as a final audition for some of the players, but it means a lot to Swallows whose status is on the line, unless bottom dwellers Baroka lose to Chippa United in Gqeberha.

Meanwhile, the iKapa derby between Stellenbosch FC and Cape Town City will be more than just about bragging rights. A lot is still up for grabs as the two teams can still play continental football next season as well.

A win or draw for City will put them in a strong position to book their spot in African international competition for the first time since their inception five years ago. But do not take your eyes off Stellies who will be within touching distance if they win at home.

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