Ernst Middendorp’s Cape Town Spurs side to start with intensity

Ernst Middendorp, head coach of Cape Town Spurs during the DStv Premiership 2023/24 football match between Cape Town Spurs and Royal AM

Coach Ernst Middendorp’s much-vaunted ability to save teams from relegation will be put to the test on Tuesday when Cape Town Spurs host cross-town rivals Stellenbosch in their Premiership clash. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Nov 28, 2023


Coach Ernst Middendorp’s much-vaunted ability to save teams from relegation will be put to the test on Tuesday when Cape Town Spurs host cross-town rivals Stellenbosch FC in their DStv Premiership clash at the DHL Stadium. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.

On Saturday, Middendorp stood by helplessly as Spurs slumped to yet another defeat in their home match against Royal AM. It was a nightmare start to Middendorp’s tenure as Spurs’ head honcho.

Stellenbosch are one of the Premiership’s in-form teams and after their win at the weekend, they have broken into the top half of the standings. On Saturday, they have bigger fish to fry with a Carling Knockout semi-final against Richards Bay.

After accumulating 17 points from 12 matches, Stellenbosch occupy seventh spot in the Premiership table.

Urban Warriors need to something, anything

The Urban Warriors, on the other hand, have a mere three points after 12 matches and are rock-bottom of the 16-team standings. After Saturday’s 2-1 loss, Middendorp said the team needed to start matches with a higher intensity. “I can’t explain,” said Middendorp, ”I try to do research.

“As a team you are one down – probably you have seen it 1 000 times – and suddenly they do better. All of a sudden, they are more active, of course to chasing or whatever, in terms of nothing to lose. I don’t know what it is.

“I just asked myself why you cannot then do it immediately with 0-0 and going into it. It’s difficult to explain. We must address it, we must face it, we have to put it to the point, and that’s our doing.”

The one ray of sunshine in the Spurs camp has been Luke Baartman who, at the tender age of 17, has lit up the PSL scene. He has continued to impress and has shown maturity well beyond his years. As a striker, he looks for every opportunity to hurt the opposition defence.

Stellenbosch’s answer to Baartman is goalmouth poacher Iqraam Rayners. The 27-year-old has been Stellies’ main attacker this season, having scored 10 goals in 19 games played so far.

However, Rayners only managed to net three times in the DStv Premiership this season and could look to increase his goal tally against a leaky Spurs defence.

Barker felt he should have been on the scoresheet against AmaZulu at the weekend.

‘A bit unlucky’

“Iqraam Rayners, in particular, was a bit unlucky not to get us a second goal, which would have made it easier,” said Barker.

“But, at 1-0, it is always tough, and they threw a lot of numbers forward, getting the ball into the box.”

Another player who has been outstanding for Stellies has been goalkeeper Sage Stephens. He saved a penalty at the weekend.

“Sage Stephens had to make some big saves, including the penalty,” said Barker.

“He did well from the free-kick from (Riaan) Hanamub and then deflected one over the crossbar at the end. Everyone has a role to play in the team, and Sage has done his role by keeping that clean sheet for us with some massive saves.

“Overall, I’m proud of the effort, work rate, and commitment of the players under difficult circumstances to just keep pushing, and that’s a sacrifice that we need to continue showing if we want to be successful.”

IOL Sport