At a time when Stellenbosch FC are on the cusp of winning their first trophy in South African top-flight football, it is worth noting that the Winelands club has been a model of professionalism.
This measure of professionalism has been at the heart of the club's day-to-day operations since it bought the national First Division franchise of Vasco da Gama, seven years ago.
To date, Stellenbosch has bagged lower-tier honours such as the DStv Diski Challenge (2021) and the Premier League Next Gen Cup (2022) following a comprehensive 7-2 victory over Leicester City in the final in the UK.
The following year they lost to England's Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) in the final after a 5-4 penalty shootout in India. This success at youth level, on foreign soil, were pointers that the club had a healthy future ahead.
Silverware up for grabs
On December 16, Stellenbosch will run out against TS Galaxy in the final of the Carling Knockout Cup, South Africa's version of the League Cup.
Should they win, it will rank as the club's greatest achievement and mark its trophy success in senior domestic football.
Reaching the Carling Knockout Cup and their current lofty fourth position on the Premiership standings is a brilliant achievement considering the club sold some of the best players ahead of the start of the season.
Names that come to mind include Júnior Mendieta (Mamelodi Sundowns) and Sibongiseni 'Ox' Mthethwa (Kaizer Chiefs). A few weeks prior, Stellenbosch sold key players like Ashley du Preez and Zitha Kwinika to Chiefs.
It was a hard pill to swallow for Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker who was in the throes of team building. But having been long in the game, he knows the club's owners want nothing more than a healthy bank balance.
Against this background, the club soldiered on and made several signings including Oscarine Masuluke, Basil Mphahlele, Thabo Moloisane, Ismaël Touré, Prince Amponsah, Genino Palace, Salifu Colley, Oura Anicet, Thulani Mini and Kgaogelo Sekgota.
Five months into the season, Stellenbosch are in a cup final and lying in fourth position in the Premiership. This proves conclusively that the club is successful.
Two elements stand out at the Winelands club. It is smart recruitment and its prolific economy.
Recruiting the key
Despite off-loading their best players, the recruitments have proved to be on point. The club’s recruitment staff are highly qualified and have experience of working abroad.
The other major factor in the club’s success has been the Stellenbosch FC High Performance Academy which was launched in January 2019.
Almost all the players at their academy are drawn from the local community in Stellenbosch which traditionally is a rugby-mad town. The club rarely scouts players from outside the Winelands area.
The Stellenbosch operation is headed by Rob Benadie, the chief executive officer. He and the staff have developed a strategy of talent development rather than talent acquisition.
He firmly believes that in the cut-throat world of modern-day professional sports, elite performance is the benchmark for success, satisfaction and fulfilling one's potential.
For now, the best Christmas present for the footie fans in the Winelands will be for Stellenbosch to be crowned Carling Knockout Cup champions at the Moses Mabhida Stadium next week.
* The views expressed are not necessarily the views of IOL or Independent Media.
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