Cape Town — Romain Folz made an unbeaten start to his tenure at Marumo Gallants after they held Stellenbosch to a goalless draw in their DStv Premiership opener at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.
Bahlabane Ba Ntwa parted ways with Dan Malesela at the end of last season and appointed Folz as his successor. The Frenchman almost celebrated a victory on the opening weekend of the new campaign as Tshepo Gumede came close to pouncing late on.
Steve Barker's side looked more likely to break the deadlock during the opening 60 minutes, but the hosts finished stronger and nearly clinched the win in the closing stages.
Stellenbosch were looking to build on an impressive 2021/22 campaign, where they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup after finishing fifth by virtue of an inferior goal difference to Royal AM.
They made the better start and forced two early corners before Junior Mendieta had the first sniff at goal on four minutes, when he fired narrowly wide of the left post after being played in on the right by Devon Titus.
The Maroons dominated possession in the first half and went close again on 26 minutes through lovely link-up play involving Sihle Nduli, David van Rooyen, Mendieta and Titus, whose shot from range drifted wide of the left post.
Gallants finally threatened 10 minutes before the break as Ayanda Nkili fed Sede Dion on the right and the striker drew a save out of Sage Stephens from inside the area.
Washington Arubi was then called into action to deny Nduli on 41 minutes after the midfielder had been picked out by Mendieta inside the box on the left. The duo combined again in stoppage time as the Argentine got off a shot on this occasion that cleared the crossbar.
The visitors continued to push for the opener after the restart and Glenn Hahn was unable to keep his effort down from inside the area on 55 minutes, while Judas Mosemaedi just cleared the bar on the hour mark after latching onto a ball over the top from Fawaaz Basadien.
Folz's side grew in confidence as the second half wore on and Dion dragged a shot wide of the left post from inside the box on 65 minutes, although Stellies created another chance soon afterwards when Mosemaedi glanced a header wide of goal from Mendieta's free-kick.
After Arubi kept out a long-range strike from Basadien on 80 minutes, the hosts ramped up the pressure in the closing stages. Celimpilo Ngema tested Stephens from distance twice in the space of three minutes, before Gumede spurned a golden opportunity to snatch all three points at the death with an angled header from close range that missed the target.