CAPE TOWN - An analysis of the Mother City’s four NFD clubs after seven games of the season reveals the following: Stellenbosch FC and Ajax Cape Town will be among those challenging for promotion to the PSL, Cape Umoya United look a likely middle-of-the-road candidate, while Ubuntu Cape Town are in for an almighty battle to stave off relegation. Here’s a look at how the four clubs have fared after seven games of the season:
Change has been good for Stellenbosch FC. Last season was a real struggle for the Cape Winelands club - but, this time around, with new owners (Remgro Limited and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport), and playing their home games in the Stellenbosch community of Idas Valley, things are looking up. After a slow start to the new campaign, Stellenbosch have strung together a good run of results and are currently sitting pretty in second position on the NFD standings, with 13 points from seven games.
Head coach Steve Barker is the man at the helm - and, while promotion is uppermost in his thoughts, he is just as aware his primary focus is to continue to grow and mature his squad. Stellenbosch have a nice mix of youth and experience, but there is still a long way to go; they cannot get carried away. As a coach, Barker understands the difficulty of a promotion campaign - he’s been here before on quite a few occasions - and he will make sure that he keeps his players grounded.
Ajax Cape Town
After all the arbitration hearings and court cases last season, and the subsequent heartbreak of Ajax Cape Town’s relegation from the PSL, they haven’t allowed the disappointment to bog them down. They’ve gone down to the lower division and attacked the task with gusto. The objective is clear and unequivocal: Ajax want to bounce back to the top flight immediately.
They’ve started the campaign in the right way and are currently in third spot on the NFD log, with 13 points from seven games. Head coach Muhsin Ertugral refused to jump ship after the club’s demise; he stayed on to fight the good fight, and the players have responded to the challenge.
Ajax have, arguably, the strongest squad in the NFD, but this is a division in which such things count for little. The only aspect that matters is hard work, and the desire and commitment to do battle. There is no room for shirkers in the NFD - and, so far, so good for Ajax. But there’s still a way to go and, if they want to get back to the PSL, they’ll have to keep the consistency going.
Cape Umoya United
As expected, new Mother City NFD club Cape Umoya United have had an up-and-down start to life in the lower tier. Last season the club was known as Platinum Stars, and they were relegated from the PSL. Now, with new owners, which includes head coach Roger de Sa, and a new name, the first season was always going to be a learning curve. They’ve had to start from scratch, not only in establishing administrative structures for the new club, but also in putting together a competitive squad of players.
Currently, Umoya are in 11th position on the NFD standings, with nine points from seven games. All things considered, it’s not too bad a beginning. De Sa obviously needs time to get this new squad to knit together and develop an understanding. It will take time, which is why it is expected that Umoya can only get better as the season progresses.
Ubuntu Cape Town
Last season, Ubuntu Cape Town managed to avoid relegation on the final day of the season. This season has been no different. It has been another uphill battle for the Cape club. Currently in last position on the NFD log, Ubuntu have picked up just one point in seven games.
The only shining light at the end of this rather gloomy tunnel is the fact that Ubuntu have played most of their games on the road. Once Athlone Stadium becomes available, they will have a good run of home games - and that will be the time they will have to make the most of their home advantage. If not, it’s going to be a really long campaign for Ubuntu, with relegation a real possibility.