Battle for Venda gains momentum
TTM and Black Leopards are working hard
BLACK Leopards have so far eclipsed their home rivals Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila to the second spot on the National First Division (NFD) log standings, making them the favorites to earn a play-off berth as the league approaches its final stages.
But it’s not over yet for fifth placed TTM. If both Leopards and TTM collect maximum points in their remaining matches, then Venda could have two teams vying for a spot in the elite PSL league via the promotional/relegation play-offs.
This may be good for the football mad fans in the area who have been starved of big time soccer since Leopards were relegated from the elite league.
TTM who have shown promise by leading Leopards in the standings for most of the season now have it all to do in their remaining games including the must-win encounter at home against runaway log leaders Highlands Park next weekend.
Both clubs enjoy a huge following in Venda and use the Thohoyandou stadium which is often packed to the rafters for their home games.
Leopards coach Joel Masutha now has the unenviable task of ensuring his team retain their second spot which they earned after they beat promotional hopefuls Real Kings last weekend. The 2-1 victory took Leopards to second spot on the NFD log.
Leopards are reaping the rewards of having been patient with Masutha, who they have stuck with this season. He has so far shown to be just as knowledgeable and passionate about the game from the bench.
Before Sunday’s NFD match against Kings, Masutha had hinted that Leopards might go down to KwaZulu Natal with his team to cause an upset.
This suggestion became reality when Lidoda Duvha ran the Kings ragged to pocket full points in the NFD match at King Goodwill Zwelithini Stadium.
Leopards started the second half of the 2017/2018 season in the bottom half of the table and won 3 consecutive games in the beginning of the year.
The win on Sunday saw them rise up to second place on the NFD league log.
They are tied on 38 points with Kings but enjoy a superior goal difference.
This puts them in a better position of qualifying for the end-of-season promotional/relegation play offs.
The club’s spokesperson Berry Ramunenyiwa is not only confident that the side will qualify and be one of the teams that will be competing in the play-offs but also believes that they will gain promotion into the ABSA Premier League next season.
“We are confident that Black Leopards will be in the play-offs and gain promotion this season. Promotion has eluded us in the previous years but not this time,” Ramunenyiwa said.
Leopards’ rivals from Venda, fifth placed Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila missed out on an opportunity to move to second place of the table when they were beaten 2-1 by relegation threatened Richards Bay last week.
TTM’s defeat was good for Leopards as they now compete for the second spot on the NFD table behind log leaders Highlands Park, who have a 15-point lead at the top.
“We should not look at other teams.
“TTM’s loss would have amounted to nothing if we had lost the game against Royal Kings. We must concentrate on us and win our own games,” said Masutha.
Lidoda Duvha have conceded only one goal in five matches.
This was conceded during their victory against Kings last Sunday.
They have also won three games in a row and will be looking to enhance their chances of winning promotion by beating 10th positioned Stellenbosch FC at home in Thohoyandou in their next fixture.