from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN – NO longer the newcomers that they were last season, Stellenbosch FC are aiming for a stronger start in the upcoming campaign.
Last season, the side from the Cape Winelands was slow off the starting blocks. That form had pundits rating them as contenders for relegation straight back into the national first division.
They had to wait for the eighth game to secure their first win of the season, which came in a 2-0 win away at Polokwane City, who were eventually axed from the top flight having finished last.
Stellies had opened the season with a goalless draw against Chippa United, two months earlier.
However, Steve Barker’s team eventually finished the season a credible tenth on the 16-team standings.
They missed out on top eight position by just three points as Bloemfontein Celtic secured the last berth, on 39 points.
Because of the strong finish to the campaign, played in the bio-bubble, belief is high among players that they can make a bigger impression this coming season.
“I think it’s important for us to start strong,” striker Waseem Isaacs told CAJ News Africa in an interview.
He was speaking as the players returned for preseason at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS).
Isaacs was one of the key performers last season, with eight goals.
“We have to hit the ground running. We just simply have to be better than last season,” he said.
Stellenbosch’s form in the cups was disappointing in their debut season.
They fell at first hurdle in Telkom Knockout (TKO) against Orlando Pirates. The game ended 1-0.
They also lost in the opening round of the Nedbank Cup, a 3-2 setback on penalties against Maritzburg United after the sides finished 2-2 in regulation time.
Meanwhile, like fine wine, defender Robyn Johannes matured with age this past season and duly received both the Players’ Player of the Year and Footballer of the Year award.
He mobilized his teammates ahead of the next campaign.
“There’s a lot to look forward to. Last season ended well but we are far from where we need to be,” Johannes said.
According to the player, Stellenbosch FC proved that it could compete with the best in the league.
“So, there’s no reason to accept mediocrity,” Johannes emphasized.
The club has signed goalkeeper Sage Stephens from Cape Town City and fullback Zitha Macheke from Bidvest Wits.
– CAJ News