Maritzburg United’s last significant hurdle on the “road to freedom” in the DStv Premiership is a clash with an even more desperate Baroka team, who have made notable progress in recent weeks under well-known caretaker coach Vincent Kobola.
Ernst Middendorp’s side need a point from Saturday’s 3 pm clash at Harry Gwala Stadium to avoid relegation, while their visitors from Limpopo require a win to stand a chance of staying up and avoiding the play-offs.
But Kobola promises to have little fear of the environment, since he was an assistant coach at Maritzburg in recent seasons and helped guide the “Team of Choice” through the 2019 play-offs along with his then superior Eric Tinkler.
Moreover, Kobola’s current warriors at Baroka have done well to pick up two wins and two draws from their last five outings to dramatically boost their survival hopes. Middendorp’s team have comparatively lifted one win and three draws in the same period, but those results have allowed them to stay above Baroka, Swallows and TS Galaxy in the bottom four.
The “Team of Choice” also have a rescheduled match against Orlando Pirates in Soweto next Tuesday to help their cause, but they say the plan is to get the job done against Baroka on Saturday — even though their superior goal difference in the relegation dogfight means they can lose and still avoid the drop depending on their rivals’ results.
Said assistant coach Maahier Davids:
Various scenarios that exist are based on the fact that Maritzburg currently sit one point clear of Galaxy and three points clear of both Baroka and Swallows, plus they have that game in hand.
They would have to lose badly to Baroka and Pirates to drop into last place and suffer automatic demotion that comes with that position. But that permutation falls away should Swallows and Galaxy not pull off victories in their final assignments on Saturday, with all games set for 3 pm.
The Birds visit a Kaizer Chiefs side who still have a chance of qualifying for African football next season, while Galaxy are away to a Chippa United team who have nothing to play for this weekend after they moved clear of relegation trouble last week.
According to the Premier Soccer League, the play-offs will begin on May 29 with a clash between the two teams who qualified from the GladAfrica Championship, Pretoria University and Cape Town All Stars, in the Mother City. The round-robin competition will conclude on June 8.
PSL Awards nominees announced
Meanwhile, the nominees for the annual “PSL Awards” were announced on Thursday. A much-expected leader of players shortlisted for the top individual trophies is dangerous Mamelodi Sundowns striker Peter Shalulile.
He officially faces competition from teammate Andile Jali and Royal AM’s Victor Letsoalo for the PSL Footballer of the Season gong, while his rivals for the DStv Premiership Players’ Player of the Season award are both teammates, Jali and Themba Zwane from the midfield operations.
There is going to be a virtual ceremony on May 29, with live coverage on both SuperSport and SABC.