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Profiling PSL returnees Black Leopards and Highlands Park

10:45 AM EDT 8/1/18
Mothobi Mvala
The two sides are familiar with their PSL having been there before, but how have they changed since their relegation from the elite league?

The 2018/19 PSL season is just a few days away, and two newly promoted teams, Highlands Park and Black Leopards, have been hard at work in the transfer market and wrapping up their pre-season training as they look to be competitive rather than to avoid relegation.

Highlands Park bounced back immediately as NFD champions after being relegated at the end of the 2016/17 season, while Black Leopards finally managed to make it past the Promotional/Relegation play-offs after they came short on three previous occasions.

There is a positive buzz about the Limpopo-based side. Leopards will not be short on confidence if their play-offs and recent Limpopo Soccer Legacy Spectacular tournament performances are anything to go by.

Lidoda Duvha made a couple of good signings to strengthen their side and to also give themselves a better chance of playing an exciting brand of football.

They have acquired the services of Chris Matombo, a former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder, who was at some stage rated as the player to take over from Tinashe Nengomasha.

Matombo is a tough tackler of the ball that takes no prisoners. He will be instrumental in the heart of Leopards’ midfield alongside Phathutshedzo Nange and Lesedi Kapinga.

Leopards also roped in left-back Pentjie Zulu, who is solid in defence while he also offers so much going forward. 

Lidoda Duvha will benefit from his pace and overlapping runs that he normally makes to whip in quality crosses for Mwape Musonda. Zulu previously played for Bidvest Wits and Chippa United.

According to the fixture list, Leopards will play their home matches at Polokwane away from their real home support that they are used to at the Thohoyandou Stadium.

Meanwhile, Highlands Park look set and ready as they have retained the squad that ran away with the NFD title last season.

They have added two players from PSL clubs in centre-back Bevan Fransman from Maritzburg United and goalkeeper Kyle Peters from Bidvest Wits.

Fransman is a big catch for Highlands Park as he had a stellar season with Maritzburg United as their captain, leading them to the Nedbank Cup final.

The Lions of the North added Fransman to their already rock-solid defence that only conceded 13 goals in the NFD.

The Highlands Park technical team is full of experience with coach Owen Da Gama, who is yet to lose a league match since he took over last September.

Da Gama’s assistant is the former Platinum Stars coach, Allan Freese. They also have the former South Africa Under-23 physical trainer Simone Conley.

The Tembisa-based outfit will give a lot of teams a run for their money with players like Mothobi Mvala in central midfield, a box-to-box player that makes his team tick as well as Peter Shalulile, the joint NFD top goalscorer (15 goals) with Musonda and Moeketsi Sekola, the 2014/15 PSL top goal scorer.

Leopards and Highlands Park will take confidence in knowing that the so called smaller teams like Maritzburg and Free State Stars managed to finish in the top six last season and a big team such as Ajax Cape Town was relegated.

Lidoda Duvha take on Polokwane City at home while the Lions of the North will be away to Orlando Pirates this weekend.