Durban - AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy has not shied away from the fact that his side risk turning into another “Swallows” FC if they continue at their current trajectory.
Usuthu will have a good opportunity to prove that they are not just “draw specialists” when they host seventh-place Orlando Pirates at the Jonsson Kings Park Stadium in Durban.
McCarthy’s charges head into the game on the back of four successive draws with the most recent being against Royal AM in their historic first-ever top-flight Durban derby against the league newcomers. They have also drawn nine league games so far which is the most out of any side in the top-flight up to this point.
The biggest problem for AmaZulu has been their inability to convert from their opportunities. They have not been short of that but have also been unlucky in the sense that key attackers Bongi Ntuli and Augustine Mulenga are injury-prone while the other experienced attackers such as Lehlohonolo Majoro and Luvuyo Memela are currently not in the best of form.
New Zealand international Andre De Jong has proven that he can potentially be a first-team regular with some enterprising attacks in recent games. Had it not been for a man-of-the-match performance from Royal AM goalkeeper Patrick Nyame last weekend, the 25-year-old would have scored his first league goal or perhaps a hat-trick.
De Jong is still inexperienced in the South African top-flight having missed the majority of last season through injury and may just need a guiding figure like Mulenga or Memela before he can start delivering match-winning performances.
While AmaZulu do not have reason to panic just yet, a cause for concern is the fact that they are closer to the relegation zone than to the top of the standings. Nine points currently separate Usuthu from last place Swallows FC while 13 points separate them from top of the pile Mamelodi Sundowns.
If one thing is certain, AmaZulu can still turn their season around. They were in a similar position in the league standings when McCarthy was appointed coach in November 2020 before undergoing a remarkable turnaround and finishing second.
However, the next 10 days could be vital in determining whether Usuthu’s league campaign can potentially end in a top four finish as they have a favourable draw after the Pirates game.
After the Sea Robbers game, they have a double header against Chippa United before taking on Marumo Gallants and then concluding the year with fixtures against Sundowns and Pirates.
If AmaZulu want to attain Chairman Sandile Zungu’s vision of a top four finish this season, it is vital that they pick up wins before the end of the year especially in the games against Gallants and Chippa.