When Stellenbosch FC get their playoff campaign under way with an opening fixture against Baroka FC at Athlone Stadium on Wednesday (3pm kickoff ), it’s the start of their desire to secure a place among the elite football clubs in the Premier Soccer League.
The race for promotion to the top-flight PSL will be contested by three clubs – Stellenbosch, Black Leopards and Baroka.
For Stellenbosch, money and prestige, no doubt, matter – but, more than that, they are an ambitious club. There is no thought of a sale in their minds. The only goal for club boss Mario Ferreira, who is also a majority shareholder at Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes, is to have his club competing with the best in the country.
By doing so, he can put in place the structures for his vision of a proper, top-flight partnership between Stellenbosch and Guimaraes.
This is the Cape Winelands team’s big opportunity – and, in putting the squad together, the most important feature for head coach Sammy Troughton was the spine of the team.
From goalkeeper, to the centre of defence, central midfield and striker, he made sure that this was where the strength was. And the strategy is the same for the playoffs over the next few weeks.
It’s no secret that any team with designs on success needs a reliable goalkeeper. So, when the University of Pretoria decided to release Zimbabwean custodian Washington Arubi, Stellenbosch pounced to bring the player to the Cape. Troughton had worked with the experienced shot-stopper before, and the 31-year-old hasn’t disappointed.
He’s played a vital role in getting Stellenbosch to the playoffs and, now, he’s hoping to inspire them to the PSL.
In the centre of defence, Stellenbosch have an excellent duo in Marcus Lecki and Junaid Sait.
In reflecting on Baroka, Stellenbosch’s opposition tonight, their strength was quite evident when they beat Ajax Cape Town at the weekend. The Polokwane side is extremely difficult to break down; they are an organised side that keeps coming and keeps fighting.
If there’s one thing Stellenbosch are going to have to do tonight, then it’s to try and find a way beyond their resolute and committed defensive structure.
For that purpose, Stellenbosch will look to their midfield, where the creative Stanley Muishond and the industrious Tshepo Mabua do duty. The duo has provided the offensive impetus for the Western Cape club – and they’ll be keen on maintaining their superb form in the playoffs.
Up front, Stellenbosch boast a deadly attacker in the powerful, bustling 33-year-old Senegalese, Mame Niang. Much-travelled and highly-experienced, Niang has been a vital cog in Stellenbosch’s progress – and there’s no doubt the striker will be a handful for the defences of Baroka and Leopards to deal with.
In short, therefore, Stellenbosch have the team to achieve their objective – it’s now just about the implementation, the commitment, the determination and, above all, the desire.