The Vodacom League Play-offs this year will attract huge interest, because of the nationalisation of the First Division next season.
The Inland and Coastal Streams system that has been used for the past four years is to be dumped, and because of that the value of a First Division franchise will skyrocket.
Additionally, there will be a world of difference between the second and third tiers, which is pushing the nine provincial finalists to make the most of the Finals, being played in Cape Town from June 6-12.
Every day we will introduce you to two teams fighting it out for NFD status. INLAND – MPUMALANGA Sivutsa Stars Club boss Derick Khoza – a construction mogul in the province – says the club lives by its motto ‘uyavutha umlilo’ (the fire is burning) and are looking to make the most of their maiden appearance at the Finals.
Stars are coached by Victor Fumo, assisted by McDonald Makhubela, and are based in the provincial capital Nelspruit, using the kaBokweni Stadium in the township located near the Kruger airport, 20 km from the city.
The most recognisable face at the club is former Orlando Pirates and Benoni Premier United striker Irvin Mhlambi, who joined in January, while skipper Innocent ‘Gerard’ Mkhabela provides the inspiration.
Rated as the star players is the duo Sibusiso ‘Scara’ Mguni, on loan from Pirates, and Aphiwe Mlalandle – an attacking midfielder who was in the Amabineplaas squad that travelled to Sudan for the CHAN Finals.
The club was formed in 2007, after they bought the franchise of Witbank Manchester, and club colours are maroon and blue, inspired by Barcelona.
Stars had a tough run in winning the League, finishing just three points ahead of Mighty Mega Force.
INLAND – NORTH WEST Ga-Rankuwa United – who were relegated from the First Division three years ago – are on top of the current North West Stream standings with 63 points, but there are issues threatening to change that.
Second placed North West Shining Stars (62) and third placed Soshanguve Sunshine (61) are involved in a legal matter that has gone to arbitration regarding allegations of an improperly registered player Benjamin Nthethe, used by Sunshine.
Should Sunshine – who won the game before being docked the points – win the case at arbitration and be handed back the points that were given to Stars, then they will finish on 64 and become the champions.
For Part I of the series, CLICK HERE.