Usuthu struggling, Dikwena sinking, Birds With No Wings

This season has been particularly bad for the pride of KwaZulu-Natal, AmaZulu.  They only have one win to show in 18 league appearances, and it does not look like things are about to take a turn for the better.  Their most recent defeat was at the hands of Bloemfontein Celtic, a 3-0 thrashing in the City of Roses.  Before that, Usuthu let slip a one goal lead at home to concede two goals against Orlando Pirates, and went on to lose that match.  They have conceded the second-most amount of goals this season; 31, just behind the 34 of Polokwane City.  The surprising thing is that the latter is sitting pretty in the top five of the log.  Obviously it has more to do with the fact that they have scored 15 more than AmaZulu has.  These are terrible statistics for a team with such a rich history like AmaZulu.  This is one team that no one would like to see going down, with such a huge following in Durban in particular.  When Craig Rosslee was brought in as the head coach about a year ago, the team was not doing well, but he managed to stabilise things and ended the season with 42 points, which was enough to land them safely in ninth position.

This season however the wheels came off for Roslee, and he seemed to be out of ideas in most games.  It was not surprising when he was given the boot, and Wilfred Mugeyi took over on an interim basis.  That also didn’t work out, and it was then the turn of current head coach Steve Barker.  Now this was a bit of a curious move for Barker, who obviously knew that the grass was definitely not greener on the other side when he left AmaTuks for the coast.  Right now I suspect he would do anything but be the coach of AmaZulu the way things are going.  Last season saw another Durban club axed from the top flight, when Golden Arrows collected only 21 points in their 30 games.  With just 12 games to go in the current campaign and with only one win, and 9 points, the situation is becoming more desperate and dire for Usuthu, and they will do well to start winning games.  It also does not help them that their most experienced defender Mbulelo ‘OJ’ Mabizela was given his marching orders against Phunya Sele Sele.

One team that has been having a shocker of a season is Platinum Stars.  Dikwena have become used to keeping the big boys company at the top of the Absa Premiership log.  This season things have just gone pear-shaped for them.  A pity for coach Allan Freese, who guided them to two trophies last season, and came very close to defending one of them when he was beaten by SuperSport United in the Telkom Knockout final.  One can easily identify the reason for their slump this season as having lost a lot of their crucial players from the past two campaigns.  When you have an exodus of personnel like Benson Mhlongo, Issa Sarr, and Siphelele Mthembu, you will most likely have problems as these were definite starters on match day.  Then to make things worse, they had a further leakage of players in the January window, with the departure of first choice goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane and Tshepo Gumede to Orlando Pirates, and also losing Luvolwethu Mpeta to Mamelodi Sundowns.  Losing more than six of your starting line-up would cripple any team, but questions should also be asked of management about this.  I seriously doubt that Freese had anything to do with this, since they were clearly a big part of his plans.  The acquisition of Tlou Segolela and Punch Masenamela is a big boost for the Phokeng-based club though, with ‘Sox’ known for his blistering pace down the right wing, and Punch the sort of full-back you want in modern football; one that plays more like a second winger.  Although they are 9 points ahead of AmaZulu, they are nowhere near safe, and need to regain their form if they don’t want to be entangled in the relegation/promotion battle.

Another team that is troubled is Moroka Swallows.  Like AmaZulu, the Dube Birds are with a coach with whom they did not start the season.  They parted ways with Zeca Marques earlier in the season, who could not get any flight to their campaign.  Fani Madida showed some good signs when he was named the interim coach, even ending Kaizer Chiefs’ winning streak with a 1-1 draw away at the FNB stadium.  They had problems financially when the season started, having been abandoned by VW so they could not really reinforce their squad.  But they struck a deal with Hyundai, meaning they could now dig deeper into their pockets to try and lure some talent to Dobsonville.  The issue for them is that they have an ageing team at their disposal, with guys like Lefa Tsutsulupa, Dikgang Mabalane, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Tsietsi Mahoa, and Shere Lekgothoane not exactly spring chickens anymore.  Madida, the former Chiefs marksman, is now the outright head coach, but has not had things go his way.  He suffered a thorough 4-1 beating at the hands of Sundowns in the first game of 2015, and was shown no love on Valentine’s Day when his team went down 2-1 to a resurgent Polokwane City.  Swallows is another team that has a special place in the hearts of SA football fans, and it would be sad to see them shipped to the wilderness.  If they do not get their act together soon, they run the risk of that exact situation.