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Ashley du Preez happy in his hometown of Stellenbosch ... for the moment

Ashley du Preez of Stellenbosch FC celebrates after scoring one of his two goals during last week’s DStv Premiership game against Mamelodi Sundowns at Tuks Stadium in Tshwane. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Ashley du Preez of Stellenbosch FC celebrates after scoring one of his two goals during last week’s DStv Premiership game against Mamelodi Sundowns at Tuks Stadium in Tshwane. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published May 17, 2022

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Cape Town — Ashley du Preez has seen it all with Stellenbosch FC.

From the early days of the club’s inception back in 2016, when still a scrawny teenager battling through the National First Division, to scoring a brace against champions Mamelodi Sundowns this past weekend to propel Stellies to the dizzy heights it now occupies in the DStv Premiership.

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It has been some journey — both for player and club — and which is both seemingly destined for even bigger things.

Du Preez’s status on the local circuit has certainly exploded with the speedy attacker being rewarded for his inspirational and energetic displays with a maiden call-up to Hugo Broos’ Bafana Bafana squad this week.

Equally, his fleet-of-foot performances have not gone unnoticed in Gauteng where uber clubs Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and, of course, Sundowns have displayed an interest in the 24-year-old.

To Du Preez’s credit, he has continuously dismissed any suggestions of a move away from his homeland, always stating “I am happy where I am. I am focused on Stellenbosch… I want to contribute for this team” as he said once again on Tuesday.

It is inevitable though that Du Preez will ultimately move up north to secure his financial future — maybe even by the start of the new season — but his roots will always be in Stellenbosch, particularly due to the influence of his long-serving coach Steve Barker.

“Coach Steve Barker is a very good person both on and off the field. The way he talks to you makes you feel comfortable with him,” Du Preez told IOL Sport. “The relationship with the coach is good, it really is top class, especially as we haven't had other coaches coming in and going. That has created consistency for us.”

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Barker is a firm believer in that players only mature in the DStv Premiership after having played “50-60 games”. This trust factor between player and coach was essential after Du Preez showed glimpses of his unquestionable talent last season without actually producing the finishing touches.

It had a major impact on Stellies’ fortunes as they barely survived the dreaded relegation guillotine.

But instead of casting Du Preez aside, Barker kept faith in his prodigy. And with Du Preez now having had the experience of three seasons in the top flight, accumulating 68 PSL matches in the process, the fruits are there for all to see through his nine goals this campaign.

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“It was tough at the beginning, but as a team we have done very well,” Du Preez said. “It takes a lot of hard work. It starts with discipline and respecting the senior players and coaches. It starts with yourself and wanting better for yourself.”

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Du Preez and Stellenbosch’s work for the 2021/22 season is not over just yet though. There is a small matter of a Western Cape derby against neighbours Cape Town City to contend with at the Danie Craven Stadium on Saturday.

Stellies hold the bragging rights after claiming the honours in the last two encounters. Barker’s men trounced City 3-0 in earlier this season at Athlone Stadium, while they also defeated the Citizens 2-1 at Cape Town Stadium last year.

Du Preez struck the winner at the former 2010 World Cup venue and everything is pointing to the fact that he may once again be the determining factor in this upcoming iKapa derby.

@ZaahierAdams

IOL Sport

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