20.05.2023 23:35 h

Heartbreak end to season for South African club Marumo

A bitter four days for South African club Marumo Gallants ended with their relegation from the Premiership on Saturday after a 2-0 loss at mid-table Swallows in Soweto.

Marumo, a team composed largely of ageing discards from other top-flight sides, lost a CAF Confederation Cup semi-final to Young Africans of Tanzania on Wednesday.

Then, needing a draw against Swallows to avoid automatic demotion, they fell to a couple of goals from Lindokuhle Mtshali, who scored in first half added-time and with nine minutes left.

Defeat left Marumo on 29 points, one less than Maritzburg United and Chippa United, after the final round of the 30-matchday championship.

"I am shattered. It never crossed my mind that this (relegation) would happen," said Marumo coach Raymond Mdaka.

"We were on top of the world just a few weeks ago -- eliminating powerful Egyptian club Pyramids in a Confederation Cup quarter-final and picking up valuable league points at home.

"What probably counted against us in the end was a lack of strength in depth. We are a small club and lack the financial resources of many other South African teams.

"The boys were a little tired lately from all the travel -- we visited Madagascar, Libya twice, Zambia, Algeria, Egypt and Tanzania to reach the Confederation Cup semi-finals."

There have been reports of disagreements between Marumo players and officials over bonuses, with some supporters suggesting on social media that it may have contributed to their downfall.

One thing Marumo are currently not short of is cash, having received 750,000 dollars (14,600 million rand) for reaching the last four of the Confederation Cup.

That prize money can be bettered in the Premiership only by finishing first, which carries a 15 million rand reward.

While Marumo now prepare for lower league fare next season, they will be replaced in the elite league by second division champions Polokwane City.

Second-last Maritzburg, who snatched a 1-1 midweek draw away to severely depleted champions Mamelodi Sundowns, go into play-offs with two second-tier sides for one Premiership slot.

Sundowns rested their entire first team as they were preparing for a CAF Champions League semi-final against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, which they lost on away goals.

At the top end of the table, Orlando Pirates hammered AmaZulu 4-0 in Durban to finish second and will accompany Sundowns into the 2024 CAF Champions League.

SuperSport United, who began the final round level on points with Pirates, fell 1-0 to Sekhukhune United in Polokwane and must settle for a Confederation Cup place.

Sekhukhune also qualify for the second-tier African competition regardless of their South African FA Cup final result against Pirates on May 27 in Pretoria.