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Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BACKPAGEPIX/SHAUN ROY
Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BACKPAGEPIX/SHAUN ROY

Unbeaten Stellenbosch are the surprise package of the season and sitting pretty in second place in the Premiership ahead of their home match against last season’s runners-up AmaZulu on Saturday.

Stellies have collected 20 points, having won five and drawn as many matches in the opening 10 games, trailing leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who have played a game less, by five points.

Having finished third from the bottom last season with five wins, 14 draws and 11 defeats as they ended with 29 points, Steve Barker’s team is completely transformed and remain one of the two unbeaten teams, along with Sundowns.

“As a football club, we are happy with the start we have had, and it is really positive for us,” said coach Barker.

“We aim to continue with the form we have, but there are no easy games in the PSL, so to go 10 games unbeaten is something we are proud of.”

The 30-point mark has historically proven to be the points tally to avoid relegation, and though Stellies are nearly there and not yet halfway through the campaign, Barker cautioned against slacking off, saying the AmaZulu match will mark the start of a challenging fixture list.

“We have a difficult block of fixtures coming, where we will play eight matches in 32 days. We know our resilience and the depth of the squad, but the quality we have will be tested during this difficult period,” he said.

“But there is a belief and confidence among the players, and there is a level of commitment from everyone at the club to continue with the good run.

“As a football club, we always set ourselves targets, and we want to reach our first target as quickly as possible.

“Our first target is to get to 30 points, and thereafter we will reassess, and then the next target will be to hopefully push and finish in the top eight.

“But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We have to stay focused and continue to work every day on the training ground to keep improving the squad.”

After a slow start, eighth-placed AmaZulu are kicking into gear and will arrive in Stellenbosch a confident team with 14 points, and Benni McCarthy’s Usuthu will be eager to inflict a first defeat on Barker’s team.

“We are looking forward to this period ahead and we want to continue to make our home ground a difficult place for opposition teams to come to,” said Barker.

“We have got a good record at home, having won three matches and drawn one, but AmaZulu are a good team.

“They have transformed and are in the group stages of the Caf Champions League and that shows that they have got good quality, are well-coached and a team with ambition.

“So we have to understand that at the weekend there is a challenge ahead for us, but at the same time we are becoming a team that opposition teams find difficult to play against.”

Barker is relieved to have key players Robin Johannes, Carlo Scott and Antonio van Wyk returning from long-term injuries.

“They are coming back just at the right time and are back in full training, and shortly they will be available for this difficult block of fixtures coming up,” Barker said.

Kickoff is at 3.30pm at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.


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