by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE battle for promotion to the continent’s most lucrative football league – South Africa’s DStv Premiership – is set for a nail-biting end this weekend.
Three sides, all enduring an inconsistent run in the final lap, are in contention for the sole direct ticket.
Cape Town Spurs, Casric Stars and Polokwane City are neck and neck atop the Motsepe Foundation Championship ahead of tricky assignments on Sunday.
The only consolation of the two sides that will miss out on direct promotion to the top tier is that they will get another go via the playoffs against the side that finishes 15th in the 16-team DStv Premiership.
The volatile position Chippa United occupy that spot but that one is another race to go to the wire, with several teams trapped in a relegation dogfight.
By virtue of being top (56 points) of the Motsepe Foundation Championship ahead of the last round of matches, Spurs (formerly Ajax Cape Town) are slight favourites to return to the elite league, a division they infamously exited at the end of 2017/18 season after a long-running transfer bungle involving Zimbabwean forward, Tendai Ndoro.
To add to their setback, a partnership with Dutch giants, Ajax Amsterdam was ended.
Spurs manager Shaun Bartlett’s Urban Warriors will battle ninth-placed fellow ex-Premiership campaigners, University of Pretoria, at Athlone in Cape Town.
Bartlett guided Golden Arrows from the first division to the Premiership in 2014/15.
Spurs are still haunted by the failure to gain promotion in 2019/20, losing out on the final day to Swallows FC after leading for almost the entire season. Ashley Cupido, the division’s top scorer with 14 goals, will again offer inspiration.
Just a point behind Spurs, Casric’s promotion will be a fairytale.
The side from KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga is campaigning in their first season in this division after purchasing the status of Free State Stars.
Co-owner and coach, Joseph Mthombeni, and his side have the trickiest fixture of the three promotion hopefuls.
Casric, “Hi Ku Twanana” to their fans, faced fourth-placed All Stars at Tsakane in Brakpan, east of Johannesburg.
Like Spurs, Polokwane are itching for a return to the topflight, from where they were relegated in 2019/20. On 54 points, coach Duncan Lechesa’s Rise and Shine needed nothing less than a win to stand a chance of promotion.
They welcome Pretoria Callies to the Old Peter Mokaba in Polokwane.
It has been a season of contrasting fortunes for the sides from the northernmost province of Limpopo, which coincidentally has two derbies.
The relegated Black Leopards and Tshakhuma will be playing solely for pride and to determine who finishes last.
Bottom side Leopards welcome Venda to Thohoyandou. Tshakhuma and Baroka play their derby at the Seisa Ramabodu in Bloemfontein.
All matches kick off at 15h00.
– CAJ News