Swallows hold their heads high
Moroka Swallows coach Gordon Igesund said his players could be proud of their achievement after a remarkable turnaround season, finishing two points away from an inaugural Premiership title on Saturday.
"The guys will go home with their heads held high. They've done well," Igesund said.
"It's moments like today that make the game what it is, and we've had a fantastic trip with the boys.
"What more could I have asked for from the team?
"I have the league's leading scorer [Siyabonga Nomvethe] and two players who are candidates for Player of the Season."
Swallows, who finished 13th last season, beat Maritzburg United 1-0 at Harry Gwala Stadium, but Orlando Pirates were crowned champions after securing victory over Golden Arrows in Durban in a simultaneous fixture in an intense final day of the campaign.
After a lacklustre first half from the visitors, they scored midway through the second period courtesy of captain Lefa Tsutsulupa in the 69th minute.
"I told the players that all we needed was to score a goal and we could be champions," Igesund said.
"We had a bit of nerves in the first half but were brilliant in the second, and we knew we would score a goal.
"But we will have to start from scratch again next season."
Igesund praised Pirates, who withstood the pressure to successfully defend their league title and a consecutive treble.
One of Igesund's four championship winners' medals was earned with the Buccaneers in 2001.
"Pirates were magnificent this season. They are definitely worthy champions," he said.
"I salute [Pirates chairman] Irvin Khoza, who was a man on a mission and knew what he wanted to achieve.
"The whole team as well, with the changes in the season and a new coach, have done a fantastic thing."
Swallows' last league victory dates back to the segregated SA National League in 1965, and Igesund said this was a revival stage for the recovering Soweto giants.
The Birds will end their season with an invitation to a friendly tournament in Shanghai, China, and they depart for Asia on Tuesday.
"We are going to take some days off and then go to China for a tournament and compete for the top eight again next season," Igesund said.
"In the long term, I want to bring this team back to where it was in the 1970s and 1980s with the likes of Ace Mnini and play the football that the team can play."
Elsewhere on Saturday, SuperSport United claimed third spot with a 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic, while Mamelodi Sundowns finished fourth after a 1-0 victory over Free State Stars.
Kaizer Chiefs drew 0-0 with AmaZulu, with Wits earning a first win of the year after beating Platinum Stars 2-0.
At the bottom of the table, Black Leopards ensured survival after beating Ajax Cape Town 3-1, while Santos head into the promotion playoffs despite beating relegated outfit Jomo Cosmos 1-0 in Cape Town.