THANDA Royal Zulu are back in the Premier Soccer League – with three matches to spare!
And it was none other than astute coach Roger Sikhakhane who helped them claw their way back to the premier division.
Thanda opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the table, amassing 56 points with three matches left, which means second placed Black Leopards on 44 points and third placed Stellenbosch FC on 43 can only finish on 53 and 52 respectively.
Sikhakhane rules the roost when it comes to promoting teams to the PSL after also helping Chippa United get promoted.
Amabhubesi were crowned National First Division (NFD) champions yesterday after beating second placed Stellenbosch FC 2-1 at Umhlathuze Sports Complex in Richards Bay.
Leopards drew 0-0 with Royal Eagles and Santos are as good as relegated after a 1-1 draw with Jomo Cosmos.
Khotso Malope and Michael Gumede’s names will appear in Thanda’s record books for scoring two crucial goals. Their goals in the 33rd and 68th minute respectively resulted in Amabhubesi’s return to the PSL after a seven-year stint in the NFD.
The road to success wasn’t an easy one, as Stellenbosch were not ready to give up. With Mame Niang leading the charge Thanda’s defenders knew they would have their work cut out. The former Mamelodi Sundowns player proved to be a thorn in their sides.
But Thanda’s No 1, Xolani Ngcobo, was always up to the task, catching and punching every header coming his way.
Amabhubesi skipper Innocent Maela said they had been longing for this day and were proud of what they had achieved: “To be honest, we were very scared coming into this game. The pressure was there but I’m glad we were able to man up and win the match.
“We are very happy for the people of Umhlathuze and also to be the ones who got the team back into the PSL.”
Niang scored for Stellenbosch by converting a penalty in the 60th minute after Ngcobo fouled Stanley Muishond early in the second half.
But the persistent Amabhubesi kept advancing and were finally rewarded when Gumede scored the goal that saw the KwaZulu-Natal outfit take an unassailable lead to be claim the NFD title with three games to go.