Stellies look to top up their tank

Jayden Adams of Stellenbosch FC rises above Gabadinho Mhango of Moroka Swallows as they clash during their DStv Premiership match on Saturday. | Backpagepix

Jayden Adams of Stellenbosch FC rises above Gabadinho Mhango of Moroka Swallows as they clash during their DStv Premiership match on Saturday. | Backpagepix

Published May 13, 2024


Smiso Msomi

Stellenbosch head coach Steve Barker has revealed that the club are planning on refurbishing his squad for their continental expositions next season.

Stellies hold second place with an eight-point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Sekhukhune United in the DStv Premiership, guaranteeing them at least a place in the CAF Confederation Cup next season.

Lindokuhle Mtshali of Moroka Swallows celebrates the winning goal against Stellenbosch. | BackpagePix

“We are mindful of it (the squad depth required), we will address it and ensure that we are able to compete on all fronts next season,” Barker told the media after his side’s stumble against Moroka Swallows.

The Cape Winelands-based club struggled to find their best version at the Dobsonville stadium, conceding two goals and also blanking for the second league game in a row.

Barker, who has guided the side to their best top-flight season ever ushered his team out with the same faces that have featured largely throughout the season.

However, he believes the demands on his squad had a part to play in his team’s failure to secure all three points against the Dube Birds.

“One of our not-so-good performances; we had a little bit of spark and a little bit of energy lacking from our side today, I think part of it is because it was our fifth game in two weeks and we do have a small squad so it’s just maybe caught up to us in a sense,” he explained.

Stellenbosch placed their first piece of top-flight silverware when they lifted the Black Label Cup in December.

Ntsikekelo Ngqonga of Moroka Swallows is challenged by Sihle Nduli of Stellenbosch FC. | BackpagePix

Barker’s men also lost a league game for the first time in 20 matches, having last lost in the competition to Mamelodi Sundowns in September 2023, winning 12 and drawing seven in that period.

The 56-year-old expressed pride in what his team has achieved this season after having had a poor start with the loss of players when the season commenced.

“I cannot take away from what the team has done and what they’ve achieved as a squad, to have a lot of change at the beginning of this season, a tough start to the league where we lost about five of our first eight and then to go unbeaten until today in the league is testimony to what they’ve done.”

Stellies’ last two games will be difficult as they face unbeaten champions Sundowns next before closing off the season against relegation-threatened Richards Bay in Durban.

Barker admitted that their loss against Swallows was a huge blow in their ambitions to play in the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

However, he wouldn't be made to concede defeat if direct rivals Orlando Pirates were to win their game later on.

Stellies in second have accumulated 50 points in 28 matches and are closely followed by the Buccaneers in third who have 49 points at this stage of the season.

He said he and his charges would place all hands on deck for the final two games of the season with expected twists and turns.

“As we speak we’re currently second (before Pirates played Richards Bay) in the DStv premiership, with two matches to go, there’s still a lot to play for, a lot can still happen, an obvious setback for us to finish second in the league but in no way will we lose any hope and give up any opportunity that will still come our way,” he said.

Stellenbosch’s drop off in the last three games in all competitions has coincided with striker Iqraam Rayners’ failure to find the back of the net.

The 28-year-old is still chasing the Premiership top scorer award with his 14 goals and will be eager to leapfrog Tshegofatso Mabasa who currently leads with 15.