CAPE TOWN – “Nervous and exited”. That best sums up the mood in the Stellenbosch FC camp ahead of the club’s first game in the Premier Soccer League after winning promotion from the National First Division (NFD).
The Winelands-based side flew out of Cape Town today and will give it their best shot when they take on Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow (3pm kick-off).
“We’re all looking forward to our first match in the top flight and have prepared well for it,” said Stellies coach Steve Barker.
“We’ve strengthened our ranks in all departments with 11 new signings but also retain the bulk of last season’s squad that won us the NFD title and automatic promotion to the PSL.”
The new faces are Boy De Jong (goalkeeper), Dickson Afoakwa (forward), Diego Franco Mares (midfielder), Dillan Solomons (forward), Inga Nyeleka (central defender), Marc van Heerden (left back), Morgan Gould (centre-back), Mpho Matsi (midfielder), Tshireletso Motsogi (midfielder), Waseem Isaacs (striker) and Kristopher Bergman (defender).
“We had a good pre-season lasting five weeks with friendlies against PSL, NFD and ABC Motsepe opposition,” added Barker. “Now the time has come to get that first PSL match under our belts.”
Chippa flirted with relegation last season, and ended 12th in the 16-team standings. Coach Clinton Larsen was given a six-month contract after the club parted with three coaches, his mandate being to beat the drop. That he did, to earn a two-year contract, and one can expect better results from the former Mother City side.
“I have a high regard for Clinton; he knows his stuff and has no doubt plotted our downfall,” added Barker. “Fact of the matter is we’ve been able to see the Chilli Boys’ matches on television and seen what they’re all about, whereas they wouldn’t know much about us but rather let’s let our performance do the talking.”
He will bank on striker Iqraam Rayners who scored 19 goals and ended as the NFD top scorer. Rayners, 23, is a natural goal poacher and is set to form a partnership with 28-year-old Isaacs, who joined from relegated NFD side Ubuntu Cape Town after scoring 13 goals for them (second to Rayners).
He’s the more instinctive of the two in front of goal and is set to make an impact.