National First Division: 2017/18 Outright Preview

Outright Preview

Our football analyst predicts how the top of the National First Division table will look like at the end of the 2017/8 season.

Last season Thanda Royal Zulu won the National First Division by a 12-point gap, leaving second and third-placed Black Leopards and Stellenbosch settling for playoff spots. Royal Eagles finished a point shy of third in a tightly contested top three race. Let's find out what the new season holds in store for us.

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To Win Outright
Black Leopards 4/1 | Highlands Park 4/1 | Stellenbosch 5/1 | Royal Eagles 6/1

The Contenders

Royal Eagles 6/1
After coming close to gaining promotion last season, the KZN based outfit owned by business mogul Sibusiso Mpisane has shown some signs of improvement and radical actions have been taken. General Manager Richard Makhoba was shown the exit door and they also parted ways with coach Kostadin Papic, who plays enterprising attacking football which happens to be defensively naïve.

The new head coach, Allan Freese is a seasoned campaigner with vast experience when it comes to winning. After rising to prominence by helping Platinum Stars win the MTN8 a few years ago, he secured the elite league promotion with Highlands Park. He has made it very clear that he wants to win the league and take the team to the PSL.

Their performances in the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s Cup this preseason suggests they are ready to compete as they defended their crown by beating another NFD side Real Kings as well as a PSL side Golden Arrows in the tournament.

Black Leopards 4/1

Lidoda Duvha were hoping to use the playoffs to gain PSL promotion last season but they found the going tough against Baroka FC who won at home and drew in the return leg. However, Leopards were too strong for Stellenbosch as they drew 0-0 in Limpopo and won 3-1 in the Western Cape.

This time Leopards will be hoping to avoid facing one of the PSL sides in the playoffs by winning the league and securing promotion automatically. Their loyal servant and captain, Siphelele Ntshangase has stuck with the team through thick and thin, even after attracting PSL interest and featuring in the national team. Ntshangase is a very important player and will help them challenge for the title this season.

Stellenbosch 5/1
With good players like Kamaal Sait’s son, Junaid and the experienced Mame Niang as well as goalkeeper Washington Arubi, there’s no reason why Stellenbosch can’t compete for the title. The youthful side suffered a baptism of fire in the recent playoffs and must have learnt from the experience.

Last season they finished third against all odds and I foresee them achieving the feat again or even doing better as they have proved their credentials by winning important league matches last season against other front runners. I think the team will be in the top three but they’re not strong enough to win the league.

Verdict: Royal Eagles (6/1)
I was very impressed with Mpisane's decision making, roping a proven winner in coach Allan Freese and getting rid of old players. Their performances in the KZN Premier's Cup must serve as a warning sign to other FND teams. I think they stand a better chance of gaining automatic PSL promotion than anyone else.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya for

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