Head Coach Steve Barker is hoping to return to winning ways this weekend when his Stellenbosch FC side take on Royal AM away from home.
Only one point separates eighth placed-Stellenbosch FC from Royal AM who occupied 11th spot at the weekend.
Goalkeeper Sage Stephens misses out after picking up a red card in last weekend’s defeat to Kaizer Chiefs but Sibongiseni Mthethwa returns to contention following a one-match suspension.
The match will be played at Chatsworth Stadium and kicks off at 15h00. No live broadcast is available.
Having suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Kaizer Chiefs last weekend, Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker has set his sights on a quick return to winning ways this time around when his side travel to Kwa-Zulu Natal to take on fellow top-eight contenders Royal AM.
“It was disappointing not to have got a bit more from the game (against Chiefs last weekend) so it’s important for us to show a bit of resilience and bounce back against Royal AM,” Barker said.
“The positions on the log (separating the two teams) are very tight and there are a lot of opportunities in the last six matches of the season to get as many points to finish as high as possible, and it’s a great opportunity this weekend in Chatsworth to get back to winning ways.
“We had really good momentum heading into the Chiefs game which was unfortunately broken, so we need to start again and try and go unbeaten in the last six matches of the season, and that starts this weekend.”
Only a point separates eighth-placed Stellies from the hosts in 11th place, and victory on Sunday would provide a timely boost in the race to qualify for next season’s MTN8 competition.
“There are a lot of teams in contention, perhaps even as high as fifth all the way to eighth, and we’re part of the mix who want to achieve that. It’s important in these last few games that we show the focus, commitment, and preparation to do as well as we can.
“It’s never easy against Royal AM, at Chatsworth, they’re a difficult team to play against, however, we have to overlook the Kaizer Chiefs result and take the confidence and belief we had and continue moving forward with that.”
You can watch coach Steve Barker’s full pre-match interview below. Be sure to subscribe to the official SFC YouTube channel!
Barker will be without the services of goalkeeper Sage Stephens who was sent off during the defeat to Chiefs, but explains that he is happy to be able to call on captain and veteran shot-stopper Lee Langeveldt to step up and assume the gloves this weekend.
“That’s the advantage of having good depth in our goalkeeping department. Lee’s a very accomplished goalkeeper and the club captain, who has served us very well since our NFD days and got us promoted.
“He’s very reliable and for me, one of the best shot-stoppers in the country, so he adds a lot of leadership and quality. I’m happy for him that he’s getting an opportunity to lead us this weekend.”
While Stephens, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday, misses out this weekend, Stellies are boosted by the return of midfielder Sibongiseni Mthethwa
“Sibongiseni Mthethwa has been integral to the way we do things and the way we play,” Barker added. “He’s had a really good season, consistently good week in and week out.
“He gives us that steel and energy in the midfield and breaks down the opposition, and has the ability to progress the ball, so it’s good to have him back and to add that sort of midfield role that you need against a team like Royal AM.”
Barker concluded, “When you get to this stage of the season, there aren’t too many tactics that you need to be overly focused on. We’ve done that hard work and we know what works for us as a team, what our strengths are, and what areas we need to be better at.
“It’s just about fine-tuning the finer details, both defensively and in attack. I think at this stage of the season, it’s about the mentality and attitude, and not to have the mental and physical fatigue of a league that is coming to an end, but to have the hunger and desire to finish the season really strongly and to finish as high as we can.
“That will be the difference, just going there with the right mentality knowing that it won’t be easy and knowing that we have to work hard for the points we want, and then ultimately going onto the field and executing our game plan.