A new season. Highlands Park rejoin the NFD community again after their relegation from the PSL, while two newcomers have progressed from the ABC Motsepe League. A warm welcome to Uthongathi FC from KZN and Super Eagles from the Free State. We wish you a pleasant stay in the NFD. There have been other changes too – Defending NFD champions Thanda Royal Zulu sold their PSL status to KZN rivals Amazulu and then changed their name to Richards Bay FC. Milano sold their NFD status to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzihandila from Limpopo and FC Cape Town joined the changes by selling out to the Ubuntu Trust who will be competing in the NFD as Ubuntu CT FC.
The NFD – Creating the Future of South African Football.
HIGHLANDS PARK vs JOMO COSMOS
The Lions of the North face a tough opponent in Jomo Cosmos when the play their opening match at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa on Saturday. Highlands were promoted through the Promotional Playoffs at the end of the 2015/16 season, but finished last in the PSL in 2016/17 and were relegated. Cosmos will be hoping for a better season than the 10th placed finish last season. In fact up to round 21 Cosmos were in 6th place on the log. Then came that disastrous trip to meet CT All Stars, no kit, no player cards, a DC docking of 3 points and their season imploded with only 2 wins in their last 9 outings. Highlands have never beaten Cosmos in the NFD, playing to a goalless draw at home in the 2015/16 season and losing 0 – 2 away.
MBOMBELA UNITED FC vs BLACK LEOPARDS
Black Leopards came very close to playing in the PSL this season after finishing second behind Thanda Royal Zulu in 2016/17 and then finishing second to provincial rivals Baroka in the Promotional Playoffs. A trip to Kanyamazane is never easy and Mbombela don’t give up points without a fight at home. Last season Mbombela’s home record reads : P15 W10 D3 L2. Leopards will however take some confidence into the clash with the knowledge that they have never lost away to Mbombela with 1 win and 1 draw.
UNIVERSITY of PRETORIA vs MTHATHA BUCKS
Tuks by all accounts had a season that they would rather forget in 2016/17 with 14 losses and a 12th place log finish. Bucks on the other hand were challenging for a place in the Promotional Playoffs almost the entire season long and were one of just two sides to spend time at the top of the log, with the Mthatha based side spending the first three weeks of last season on top of the NFD standings. The teams have only met twice, and both encounters ended in draws.
UTHONGATHI FC vs ROYAL EAGLES
The first derby of the season and a debut match for the winners of the ABC Motsepe League title. Uthongathi beat Super Eagles to win the league title. It won’t be easy for the debutantes as they meet a Royal Eagles side who finished 4th last season and very nearly made the post season. Royal Eagles spent 24 of the 30 weeks in the top 5 in the previous campaign and will no doubt be contenders again this season.
WITBANK SPURS vs SUPER EAGLES
The NFD has a side from the Free State for the first time since the 2015/16 season when African Warriors were relegated. Super Eagles lost in the final of the ABC Motsepe League to Uthongathi FC, but were still promoted to the NFD after winning their group. The NFD rookies face a trip to the Puma rugby Stadium to meet a Witbank Spurs side who had a 7th place finish last season, but could have been much higher up the standings had it not been for some inconsistency and a poor start to 2017 when they dropped from 3rd to 9th in the pace of four matches.
RICHARDS BAY FC vs REAL KINGS FC
The second derby of the weekend takes place on Sunday and sees two KZN sides in action. The 2016/17 NFD Champions are no more. Thanda Royal Zulu sold their newly acquired PSL status to provincial rivals Amazulu and then changed their name to Richards Bay FC. They meet a Real Kings side who play in the NFD for just their second season, having finished in a creditable 11th place in 2016/17. Last season Kings lost both home and away to Thanda, losing 1 – 5 in Richards Bay and 1 – 2 at home.
TSHAKHUMA TSHA MADZIHANDILA vs CT ALL STARS
TTM FC will be hoping to make an early impression in their venture into professional football after buying the status of Cape club Milano United FC and taking the team to the Limpopo province. Milano finished 1 point and 1 place above the relegation side last season. CT All Stars might have been playing in the first Cape derby of the season had Milano retained their status, but instead make the long trip to Limpopo. All Stars will also be hoping for a much better season than 2016/17 where they spent 10 weeks in the relegation zone before a better second half of the season saw them climb to a creditable 9th place finish.
UBUNTU CT FC vs STELLENBOSCH FC
The final match of round 1 will take place on Monday and will see the first Cape derby of the season. Newly named Ubuntu CT FC bought the status of FC Cape Town. They meet a Stellenbosch FC side who missed out on the NFD title and then a place in the post season with a couple of away losses right at the end of the campaign, while FC Cape Town finished the season in a disappointing 13th position, saving their NFD status with a 1 - 0 win in the final match of the season.