Cape Town – Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker would much rather embrace the pressure of maintaining the high standards of last season than be involved in another relegation battle.
Through meticulous planning and sound structures supporting Barker and his team, Stellenbosch surprised friend and foe with a best-ever fourth place finish last season.
It was a remarkable achievement for a club that was only in its third year in the top flight and had maintained its DStv Premiership elite status by the barest of margins the previous 2020/21 season.
“We are excited for the new season coming off a really good last season. The key now is consistency. We have always maintained that we want long-term and sustainable success and now to be consistently in that top eight section that will lay the foundation hopefully in years to come to challenge for the league,” Barker told IOL Sport at the club’s season launch this week.
“It’s not that ‘we’re not innit to win it’, but we just want to keep growing both on and off the field as a football club. It is a very exciting season ahead.
“I think we need to embrace the pressure which is challenging and showing growth and is part of the development. It is important for us to know where we are as a football club, and the potential of our team. Hopefully the potential of this team will show on the log come the end of the season.
“There is pressure. But it is up to us to embrace that pressure and put it out on the field and put in big performances.”
Cynics have already suggested that Stellies will be a “one season wonder”, particularly after offloading a host of senior players, while also selling influential campaigners such as former captain Zitha Kwinika and Ashley du Preez to Kaizer Chiefs.
Barker, though, is confident that he still has a strong squad that has been boosted with the arrivals of centre-backs Lasse Sobiech and Vusi Sibiya.
“I think last year our squad had a very young element to it, and also a very senior element to it. It was intentional in terms of our planning years back to sort of evolve the club in our fourth year, and start afresh with a younger group of players but not losing the experience that would be required. The signing of Vusi Sibiya and Lasse Sobiech compensates for the loss of experience,” Barker said.
Barker’s team opens their 2022/23 campaign with an arduous away trip to Polokwane to face Marumo Gallants at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 3.30pm).
It doesn’t get any easier. Upon returning home they host Orlando Pirates (August 10), Royal AM (August 13) before lining up for the Western Cape derby against Cape Town City (August 20) followed by a match against champions Mamelodi Sundowns (August 24).
“We have a challenging fixture list ahead of us. The first six games are not easy. But again, to have consistency and where we finished, you have to start well and maintain that. Last year we started and finished very well, but during the middle period we weren’t as good, so it's just about being consistent in all four quarters,” he said.