All-conquering Sundowns hold no fears for youthful Stellenbosch

DEVIN Titus of Stellenbosch FC during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

DEVIN Titus of Stellenbosch FC during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

Published May 18, 2024


THE all-conquering Mamelodi Sundowns hold no fears for the youthful Stellenbosch FC in today’s top-of-the-table Premiership clash at Athlone Stadium.

Log leaders Sundowns have already secured an unprecedented seventh DStv Premiership title in a row this season. Their dominance of the domestic game is reflected by their runaway 19-point lead over Stellenbosch, the second-placed team.

With three games left to play, Sundowns are the only Premiership team that has an unbeaten record of 21 wins and six draws after 27 games.

On the road this season, Sundowns have a record of 10 wins and three draws in the league and have only conceded four goals on their travels. Home or away, the champions have allowed just nine goals all season and only one in their last five games.

The only defeats they’ve faced this season were in the CAF Champions League semi-finals against ES Tunis.

Sundowns are unbeaten in their last three league matches against Stellenbosch, including a 3-1 victory in the reverse fixture.

These stats are arguably unmatched in the annals of the PSL, but Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker and his team remain unbowed. They are fired by the prospect of playing at Athlone Stadium, which has always been an intimidating venue for visiting teams.

Moreover, Athlone Stadium was the venue where Sundowns’ were last defeated in a match against domestic opposition. Last season, Stellenbosch inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Tshwane giants there in last year’s Nedbank Cup quarter-final.

The move from Stellies’ traditional home at the Danie Craven Stadium to Athlone Stadium won’t deter the team’s “Maroon Army” from coming out in their numbers to support the club in their final home match this season.

“I’d like to thank the fans for their support throughout the season. The way they have got behind the team has been incredible. Our supporter base is growing week in and week out,” said Barker.

“We can’t thank them enough for being the 12th man that keeps on pushing us to get over the line in matches, and we hope and trust that they will come out in their numbers again to Athlone to support us in our last home match of the season.”

Barker has primed his side to deliver their best performance of the season against the champions. That raises the prospect of an epic encounter between these two heavyweights.

Stellenbosch remains in contention for CAF Champions League qualification, and Sundowns are bent on becoming the first team to finish a domestic season unbeaten.

“We look forward to hosting Sundowns again,” said Barker.

“They are a very tough opponent as their unbeaten league record of 51 games proves so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us, but it is a challenge that we are relishing as we want to test ourselves against the best.

“We take confidence from our previous performance against them in the Nedbank Cup earlier this month. It was a game of fine margins and one where we could have achieved a different outcome.

“We desperately want to finish second on the log table and we know that we will most likely need maximum points from our next two games. To achieve that, we have to put in our best performance of the season against Sundowns, which I believe will allow us to get the result we need.”