Season review: AmaZulu

Continuing in alphabetical order, the second club up for review on the list is KwaZulu-Natal outfit AmaZulu.

After finishing fifth in the 2016/17 National First Division campaign, AmaZulu took the back-door route to top-flight football, buying the status of provincial rivals and league winners Thanda Royal Zulu. Bolstering their squad with a host of Thanda stars including Mhlengi Cele, Ayabulela Konqobe and Sduduzo Dlamini, along with seasoned PSL campaigners Michael Morton and Rhulani Manzini, Usuthu equipped themselves as best they could ahead of a rigorous campaign, which started well enough with a 1-0 win over Free State Stars.

Yet with just two more wins in their next 14 games, Cavin Johnson began feeling the pressure, yet managed to save his and his team’s skin with a five-match unbeaten run in January, which at the time lifted them up into the top eight. Sitting just outside the top half with the season winding to a close, victories over Ajax Cape Town, Platinum Stars and Cape Town City in the last two months of the campaign saw them sneak into the top eight on the final day of the season, only to be pushed back out by SuperSport United, who were the beneficiaries of three points off Ajax Cape Town who are still in hot water following Tendai Ndoro’s registration saga.

AmaZulu were out of the Telkom Knockout almost as soon as it started, convincingly beaten 3-0 by Kaizer Chiefs in the first round. Drawn against NFD side Mthatha Bucks in the Last 32 of this year’s Nedbank Cup, Usuthu needed penalties to overcome their Eastern Cape counterparts, yet didn’t last much longer in the tournament after being booted out by unfancied NFD side Ubuntu Cape Town in the following round.

Striking statistics
AmaZulu ended the season with the joint-worst final third passing accuracy (69.6%) of all 16 teams in the league, and won the second-least amount of aerial duels (45.2%).

They oddly scored the second-most amount of goals in the last 15 minutes (11), but also conceded the second-most amount in that same time period (13), while conceding the second-most amount of second-half goals of all PSL clubs (24).

Areas of improvement
AmaZulu did enough to get by this past season, but lack a true star in their team, a game-changer that can prove the difference and rally the troops when need be.

Veteran PSL goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs will no doubt provide much-needed experience and grit, as well as change room motivation, yet it is at the other end of the pitch where the difference is needed as Siyabonga Nomvethe and Mabhuti Khenyeza are not getting any younger, with the goal scoring burden falling on Cele who finished the season with just seven goals to his name.

READ: Season review - Ajax Cape Town