Our writer previews the round 22 of the South African National First Division.
The international break can be good or bad for a team. Sometimes it kills a team’s momentum, while other times it gives you just the break that was needed to recuperate. The NFD returns on Friday afternoon with Cape Town All Stars and Jomo Cosmos opening proceedings.
Thanda Royal Zulu are eight points clear at the summit and with nine rounds of football to play, it could be all over in a matter of weeks. But in football anything is possible, so hold on to your hats because it’s going to be a thrilling final stretch.
Friday 31 March
Cape Town All Stars 14/10 | Draw 2/1 | Jomo Cosmos 19/10
Cape Town All Stars are winless in their last four matches in all competitions, including back-to-back defeats. The Capetonians are, however, unbeaten in their last six league games on home soil, including two wins and four draws.
Jomo Cosmos have struggled on the road this season with just one win from their travels, scoring seven goals and conceding 14 times. Nonetheless, Ezenkosi are unbeaten against Cape Town All Stars in the last four meetings with three wins. A tight affair is expected with Cosmos tipped to nick the win.
Saturday 1 April
Witbank 11/10 | Draw 21/10 | University of Pretoria 24/10
Witbank were impressive before the international break, claiming a comprehensive 2-0 victory away to AmaZulu. The home side have been below-par on their ground and desperately need to improve if they are to take points off University of Pretoria.
AmaTuks would have been thankful for the international break after suffering back-to-back defeats against Real Kings FC (3-2) and Mbombela United (0-2). Their lack of consistency has let them down too many times this season. Witbank won the reverse tie 2-0 and are tipped to claim the double.
FC Cape Town 28/10 | Draw 22/10 | Black Leopards 9/10
FC Cape Town are without a win in their last five games with three consecutive goalless draws, including Royal Eagles last time out. The African Beasts have shown plenty of organisation and solidity in their backline but will need to improve their attacking game.
Black Leopards have been in top form with six wins from their last seven matches. Lidoda Duvha have an excellent record against FC Cape Town, winning seven of the last eight meetings. The away win should be backed.
Stellenbosch FC 8/10 | Draw 23/10 | AmaZulu 33/10
Stellenbosch FC are on a great run of six matches without tasting defeat, including two wins on the bounce. They have won back-to-back matches on their ground and will look to make it three in a row when they take on AmaZulu.
Usuthu were disappointing last time out, going down 2-0 in their own backyard against Witbank Spurs. The reverse tie ended 1-0 in favour of Stellenbosch. Another close matchup is on the cards but the home side are tipped to come out on top.
Mbombela United 1/1 | Draw 22/10 | Mthatha Bucks FC 5/2
Mbombela United ended a run of three consecutive defeats by claiming a 2-0 victory over University of Pretoria last time out – their first away win of the season. They return to their home patch this weekend, where they have suffered consecutive defeats.
Mthatha Bucks have been the draw specialists this season. They may be unbeaten on their ground but their poor away record of two wins from 10 travels shows a lack of consistency. The sides are tipped to cancel each other out.
Real Kings FC 11/10 | Draw 22/10 | Milano United 24/10
Newcomers Real Kings FC have been fairly decent in their first season in the NFD. Currently placed 11th on the standings, the KwaZulu-Natal based club have been strong at home with six wins from 10 matches and will be determined to capitalise on home advantage yet again.
Milano United have lost nine of their last 10 matches in all competitions. The Kinnes have the worst away record in the league with nine losses from 10 travels, scoring just seven goals and conceding 25 times. The home win is the way to go.
Sunday 2 April
Thanda Royal Zulu 7/20 | Draw 32/10 | Santos 8/1
Thanda Royal Zulu returned to winning ways last time out, following a run of four matches without a victory. A 2-0 win at Milano United before the international break might just be what Amabhubesi needed to boost their confidence and get their season back on track.
Relegation-threatened Santos come to town looking to keep the table-toppers at bay. The People's Team have failed to deliver another season and as a result, find themselves fighting relegation as usual. Santos are winless on the road and should go down. The home win looks a banker bet.
Magesi FC 11/2 | Draw 5/2 | Royal Eagles 11/20
Bottom-of-the-log, Magesi FC, have lost three of their last four matches, including a 1-0 defeat at relegation rivals Santos FC. The Basement-dwellers have the worst home record in the league with a measly two wins from 10 matches, scoring eight goals.
Royal Eagles are placed fourth on the standings, 11 points off the log-leaders. The points differential might just be too large between themselves and Thanda Royal Zulu but if they fail to do that, the Durbanites will still have the possibility making the play-off places. Eagles won the reverse tie 6-1 and are tipped to claim maximum points here.
TREBLE TIPPED @ 8/1
Mbombela United Draw vs Mthatha Bucks (22/10)
Real Kings FC Win vs Milano United (11/10)
Thanda Roya Zulu Win vs Santos (7/20)
Written by Aaron Crowie @Hollywoodbets