Relegation province of KZN, Limpopo
JOHANNESBURG – With the resumption of local football still up in the air, the teams at the foot of the Premiership standings find themselves in a familiar yet tricky situation.
In recent seasons, there are no clubs that have found themselves languishing in the doldrums of relegation more than those from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
Four seasons ago, Polokwane-based Baroka FC were the first team to achieve the improbable as they maintained their top-flight status after winning the promotion-relegation play-off.
Last season, Maritzburg United followed suit, staying in the top flight after going through a successful outing in the post-season, three-team round robin campaign. The Team of Choice have been regulars in this hazardous position.
In the current campaign, Black Leopards, another Limpopo-based side, are the basement dwellers with 23 points, three adrift of KZN outfit AmaZulu, who have been in the relegation dogfight for the better part of the season.
Realistically, though, any team between the 13th and 16th positions could still be relegated considering there’s a mere three-point difference between them. Polokwane City are 13th and Baroka 14th.
With the league having come to a complete halt in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the SA Football Association’s joint liaison committee (JLC) is yet to announce its decision on the resumption of football, even though the task team had until yesterday to decide.
The JLC is determined to complete the season but there’s no telling whether it will crown leaders Kaizer Chiefs as champions, relegate Leopards, and send AmaZulu into the gruelling play-off.
However, considering Chiefs only have a four-point lead at the top and have played one more match than second-placed defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns, it’s not that easy to simply crown them champions.
The JLC will have to come to a unanimous decision on the best structured way to complete the season, or simply declare it null and void - something that has already happened in some leagues on the continent and around the world.
The teams in the basement will hopefully get the opportunity to fight for their top-flight status.
But it’s probably high time that teams from Limpopo and KZN wake up and smell the coffee and learn about the dangers of flirting with relegation for the better part of the season.
Leopards, who returned to top-flight football two seasons ago after spending five successive campaigns in the GladAfrica Championship, had to save their status on the last day of the previous campaign, despite a bright start under coach Dylan Kerr.
If the Englishman hadn’t had an altercation with the club’s management, who appeared to have set irrational targets for him despite working on a low budget with insufficient resources, Kerr would probably have found his mojo at the club this season, especially after their bumper pre-season signings.
Instead, it was not meant to be. Kerr resigned at the end of last season, while Lionel Soccoia was announced as his successor. However, the latter didn’t survive long at the Venda-based club as he was sacked after a string of poor results at the beginning of this season.
Enter Cavin Johnson. Soon after being released by AmaZulu following a disappointing outing this term, Johnson had a below-par campaign and was replaced by his right-hand man Allan Clark, who was instilling a breath of fresh air before the season came to a halt in March.
Maybe therein lies the problem. It could be that teams in the relegation quagmire do not give their coaches enough time to settle down as they expect immediate results, despite some coaches working with a low budget and without having had a full pre-season.
All the teams around the drop zone have changed coaches at least twice this season.
However, with the change of coaching personnel clearly not a winning option, club management will need to understand that they should invest more in their players and infrastructure so that teams can yield better results.