Steve Barker: No reason Stellenbosch FC can’t beat Mamelodi Sundowns on home turf

Devin Titus was one of four Stellenbosch FC players included in the Bafana preliminary squad this week. Photo: BackpagePix

Devin Titus was one of four Stellenbosch FC players included in the Bafana preliminary squad this week. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 17, 2024


Stellenbosch FC’s highly-anticipated match against reigning Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns tomorrow (3pm kick-off) has been moved to the austere Athlone Stadium, which has fond memories for the Danie Craven Stadium-based side.

The PSL, the guardians of the Premiership, have learnt a lesson from last month’s Nedbank Cup semi-final between Stellenbosch and Sundowns at the Winelands venue.

After the final whistle, there was a pitch invasion and broken fences around the Danie Craven Stadium.

The switch of venue is a good omen for Stellies. It was at the Athlone Stadium that Sundowns last lost a match against domestic opposition, when Stellenbosch inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Tshwane giants in last year’s Nedbank Cup quarter-final.

This time, however, the teams will have very different agendas for the match, which will be the headline encounter for the weekend’s penultimate round of the Premiership season, with all eight fixtures kicking off simultaneously at 3pm across the country tomorrow.

Sundowns, however, are the only one of 16 teams that still have two Premiership matches to play this season, and they will be back in action on Tuesday evening against TS Galaxy.

Hosts Stellenbosch will be focused on the race for second place, and currently, they occupy second place with a one-point lead over Orlando Pirates.

Champions Sundowns are on a mission to go through the entire league season unbeaten. They need just one more win to eclipse the PSL points record (71) for a 30-game season.

Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker noticed a buzz at this week’s training sessions after four players – Jayden Adams, Thabo Moloisane, Iqraam Rayners and Devin Titus – were all named in the preliminary Bafana Bafana squad for next month’s 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

— Stellenbosch FC (@StellenboschFC) May 16, 2024

The youthful Stellies have had a rough ride of late as fatigue set into their ranks, and their 20-match unbeaten run in the league was ended by Swallows last week. They also drew 0-0 at home to AmaZulu.

Barker and his players have set their hearts on playing in one of the two CAF inter-club competitions for the first time in their short history next season.

Hence they are desperate to beat champions Sundowns, who have played 27 league matches league this season, without suffering defeat.

“The loss against Swallows was a blow, but we’ve got to keep at it – and there’s no reason we can’t beat Sundowns on home turf,” said Barker.

“It is a tough task to beat Sundowns. They’re a good team, but I thought we did enough in the semi-final to get a sense for this match.

“The key is to get back the energy and the spark and push for two more matches.

“Pirates still have got to do the job, so let’s see how it pans out.”

— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) May 15, 2024

Stellenbosch lost 2-0, but Barker felt his side matched the Brazilians blow for blow in the Nedbank Cup semi-final at Danie Craven Stadium.

Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena said Masandawana are looking to unleash their latest talent, the 27-year-old midfielder Lesiba Nku, who scored a goal in the team’s 2-0 victory over Royal AM in their midweek clash.

Said Mokwena: “Lesiba does not need confidence; Lesiba needs time. Believe you me, the best of Lesiba is yet to come, and I can say the same about so many of the new players like (Matias) Esquivel and Lucas Ribeiro.”