NFD’s runaway leaders won’t celebrate victory – yet

Owen Da Gama (Gallo Images)
Owen Da Gama (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Highlands Park coach Owen Da Gama says the team must put their celebrations on hold until they have actually won the National First Division (NFD) title.

With 15 points separating them from second-placed Black Leopards and six games to go before the end of the season, Highlands are just three points away from clinching the title.

However, Da Gama has warned against complacency and early celebrations.

“We can smell the coffee, but until we taste it, we are not there yet,” he said this week. “We are not trying to pretend to be what we are not. Until we have mathematically won, we are not there yet. It is all in our hands and God’s hands now, but we are keeping our feet on the ground until we are certain [the NFD title] is ours.”

He has also warned his players not to take any game for granted.

“The good thing is that we have options on their contracts and most of them are playing for their contracts. They know that only a good showing will convince us to renew their contracts, and that is self-motivating. Even I am not sure about my future and I have to deliver or else I will be out,” he said.

Da Gama said he was expecting war when his side travelled to Venda to play Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila on Saturday.

“I was listening to their interview on radio and they said it would be war, and that’s what we are preparing ourselves for. They have always done well in their own backyard and we will not take them for granted.”

He said never underestimating their opponents has worked well for Highlands this season and they were not about to change that strategy.

“We know we are only as good as our last game and we have to prepare the same way for all our matches. This has been our strategy and has worked for us until now.”

Fifth-placed Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila have fallen outside the play-offs spots at second and third place, and are looking for a win to put pressure on those on top.

The big movers of the year have been Leopards, who have clawed their way back to contention for the play-offs.

Before the new year, Leopards were nowhere near the top of the table, but have since turned the tables and become serious contenders.

Lidoda Duvha are not new to this position – last season, they failed in the play-offs when they were beaten by Baroka FC.

David Thidiela’s side will be hoping to cling to the second spot until the end of the season so they can try their luck again in the play-offs. But there is still a long way to go before the season comes to an end.

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