Orlando Pirates finished third in the South African Premiership on Saturday and qualified for the 2022 CAF Confederation Cup despite being held 0-0 at home by lowly TTM.
The famed Soweto club took a three-point advantage over sole rivals for third, Golden Arrows, into the final round of the season as they sought a place in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
Arrows had to beat third-from-bottom Stellenbosch at home in Durban to have any chance of overtaking Pirates, but also featured in a 0-0 stalemate and came fourth.
Pirates disappointed on a cold southern hemisphere winter evening and took 56 minutes to hit the target with a goal attempt, which Zimbabwean Washington Arubi easily saved from Malawian Frank Mhango.
Whether qualifying for Africa can save German coach Josef Zinnbauer from the sack at Pirates is uncertain as several former stars at the club and many supporters have called for his dismissal.
His critics were particularly angered by a 4-0 drubbing at Raja Casablanca of Morocco last month in the quarter-finals of the 2021 Confederation Cup.
“Criticism is normal after a heavy loss — it happens everywhere in the world,” said Zinnbauer after completing his first full season with the Buccaneers.
“We were very inconsistent this season with generally good results at home and many disappointing ones on the road.”
– Award contenders –
Mamelodi Sundowns, who sealed a record fourth straight title last week, finished with a 3-0 triumph over mid-table Cape Town City in Pretoria.
Namibia star Peter Shalulile scored twice for the champions to raise his league goal tally to 15, one less than Golden Boot winner Bradley Grobler from SuperSport United.
Shalulile, teammate Themba Zwane and Thabiso Kutumela from Maritzburg United are the contenders for the Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards, which will be announced on Sunday.
Another Namibian, Deon Hotto from Pirates, and Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango from Sundowns are the other non-South Africans in line for prizes.
Second-place AmaZulu, who will compete in the CAF Champions League for the first time next season, drew 0-0 away to Maritzburg and finished 13 points behind Sundowns.
Kaizer Chiefs won again under caretaker coaches Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard with a goal from Serbian Samir Nurkovic earning a 1-0 victory away to TS Galaxy in Mbombela.
Although Chiefs finished a disappointing eighth the victory was significant as they pipped Galaxy on goal difference for the last place in a rich knockout competition early next season.
At the wrong end of the table, Chippa United conceded a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1 with SuperSport United in Gqeberha and will playoff with two second-tier clubs for one Premiership place.