Cape Town – Stellenbosch FC are currently breathing the thin air of their lofty status in the Dstv Premiership and are hoping they don’t suffocate when they face last season’s title contenders AmaZulu at the Danie Craven on Saturday.
Stellies have enjoyed a dream start to the season prior to the two-week long Fifa international break, with Steve Barker’s side still unbeaten after 10 matches to be firmly entrenched in second position on the Premiership log with 20 points.
Considering their end to the season last term, when they survived relegation to the second tier by the narrowest of margins, the Stellenbosch outfit are virtually in dreamland in regards to the way the 2021/21 campaign has begun.
“As a football club we are very happy with the start that we’ve had. We have 20 points after 10 matches which is a real positive for us. We hope to continue with the form that we’ve had. There is no easy game in the PSL and to have gone 10 games unbeaten we are really proud of that and want it to continue,” Barker said.
“But we also don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, and we just have to stay focused, committed and humble in terms of what we are achieving. We just have to keep working on the training ground every day, and keep improving in terms of the way we play.”
Their opposition, AmaZulu, on Saturday knows all about dreamy league runs, having themselves finished runners-up to champions Mamelodi Sundowns last season, after spending years as perennial relegation candidates.
Usuthu have not quite replicated their league form of last season just yet during this campaign, but they are starting to build up some momentum after despatching Stellies’ neighbours Cape Town City 2-0 in their last encounter.
Equally, Benni McCarthy’s charges have shown they are able to mix it with the best on the African continent by advancing to the league stages of the CAF Champions League, which is a rubber-stamp of the talent that the KwaZulu-Natal outfit possess within their ranks.
“AmaZulu are a good team, they have transformed, they are in the group stages of the CAF Champions League, which shows they have good quality and that they are coached well,” Barker said.
“They are a team with lots of ambition, so we have to understand that on the weekend there is a challenge that lies ahead for us. But at the same time we are also becoming a team that the opposition find it difficult to play against and we want that to continue.”
Stellies’ hopes of maintaining their good form has been further boosted with the return of a couple of stalwarts to the training ground.
Although they have relied on the speed and exuberance of youngsters such as Jaden Adams, Alan Robinson, Dean van Rooyen and Ashley du Preez alongside the skill of recent acquisitions such Júnior Mendieta, Stanley Dimgba, Judas Moseamedi and Waseem Isaacs to get this far, they will certainly welcome the experience of veterans such as Robyn Johannes and Granwald Scott to navigate the next quarter when the likes Orlando Pirates follow AmaZulu down to the winelands before facing champions Sundowns at the beginning of next month.
“We do have a couple of difficult games coming up. A block of fixtures where we play eight games in 32 days. We know that the resilience and depth of our squad will be tested,” Barker said.
“But fortunately there are also players like Robyn Johannes and Granwald Scott that are coming back just at the right time from some long-term injuries. They will be available shortly for this string of fixtures that are coming up. There is certainly a belief and confidence among the players that there is a level of commitment from everyone at the club to continue the good run that we are on.”