Stellenbosch FC coach Sammy Troughton faces a few head-scratching decisions as he prepares to send his team out to play Black Leopards in the second promotion playoff fixture at the Thohoyandou Stadium this afternoon (3pm kickoff).
The Cape Winelands team drew its opening playoff match 2-2 against Baroka FC at Athlone on Wednesday. Because of this, having failed to win at home, Troughton knows that Stellenbosch cannot afford to lose today.
Already disappointed with his team’s performance against Baroka, the coach now has to make some crucial decisions about the way forward, especially if Stellenbosch are to achieve their ambition of promotion to the PSL.
For Troughton, the first question is about the approach against Leopards. Does he go all-out attack and risk being caught out on the counter? Or does he try the opposite – allow Leopards to come at them and hit back on the transition?
Either strategy has its drawbacks – but Troughton has to formulate a game plan that prevents his team from losing while at the same time elevating their chances of winning.
Another decision to be made is with regard to personnel. It’s no secret that Troughton was unhappy with a few of his players in the midweek game against Baroka. Afterwards, he spoke of freshening up the squad for today’s match.
And here the big option, of course, is the return from suspension of Manti Mekoa. The experienced midfielder has been influential during Stellenbosch’s campaign in the National First Division (NFD) – and his absence was felt against Baroka. It’s more than likely that Troughton will thrust Mekoa straight back into action today.
Others who could come into contention if the coach wants to change things, to bring some freshness to the team, are defender Jason Skippers, strikers Cleophas Dube and Brent Adonis, and midfielder Jamie Webber.
Troughton is demanding more energy and intensity from his players. With a place in the PSL on offer for the eventual winner, players should be performing out of their skins to make the most of the opportunity. But, even though Stellenbosch showed character to come back twice against Baroka, overall, their performance lacked zip and zeal.
Troughton’s priority is to impress on the squad the need for greater animation, for greater commitment, and for more sparkle and potency.
Leopards are on a great run of form under Belgian coach Jean Francois Losciuto. The 44-year-old took charge of the team in November last year, and the Limpopo side has made great strides since his arrival.
He has improved the team’s tactical discipline, and infused the players with more desire and commitment.
Losciuto has experience of coaching on the continent, having worked in Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Togo, as well as a stint as Nigeria’s assistant coach, and he’s sure to have Leopards breathing fire against Stellenbosch today.
Promotion playoff fixtures
Today: Black Leopards v Stellenbosch (Thohoyandou Stadium, 3pm)
June 7: Baroka v Black Leopards
June 10: Baroka v Stellenbosch
June 14: Stellenbosch v Black Leopards
June 17: Black Leopards v Baroka