Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker has proved that he can keep up with the top teams in the league with some shrewd buys in the off-season.
Any ambitious football team needs depth.
It is often the difference between the good teams and the also-rans. And Stellenbosch FC certainly view themselves in the rank of the former, especially after two successive top eight finishes in the Dstv Premiership.
But how does Stellenbosch maintain their competitiveness, by having two top players in each position, when their stocks get raided every off-season.
The winelands outfit have lost two quality central defenders the past two years with Zitha Macheke leaving for Kaizer Chiefs last year, followed by young Olwethu Makhanya’s move to Major League Soccer in the United States ahead of the new 2023/24 Dstv Premiership campaign.
Coach Steve Barker is a shrewd tactician though with an eye for finding an oasis even in the driest of deserts. With both Marumo Gallants and Maritzburg United relegated at the end of last season, Barker prowled like a hyena on the bare carcasses and brought in the highly-rated Ivorian Ismaël Olivier Touré along with former South Africa youth international Thabo Moloisane.
Steve Barker has lauded his side’s tactical discipline in Saturday's win over Orlando Pirates, and praised the impact the club’s new signings made on debut.#StellenboschFC 🍇
— Stellenbosch FC (@StellenboschFC) August 7, 2023
The duo were excellent on debut in shutting out Orlando Pirates in the season opening victory over the Buccaneers at the Danie Craven Stadium on Saturday evening and will be looking to build on their budding central defensive partnership away to Polokwane City on Wednesday night.
“I am really proud of Thabo and Ismaël Touré. Ismaël got Man of the Match (against Pirates) and it was really well deserved. We wanted a centre back that had that sort of attributes, the physical presence and that sort of quality,” said coach Stever Barker.
— Stellenbosch FC (@StellenboschFC) August 5, 2023
“Thabo is a really good footballer too, calm, and a good communicator. He has come through some good structures in his upbringing. One of Achilles last season was to concede too many goals, and that was something we needed to improve on. It is testament to their debuts.”
They will certainly be eager to continue where they left off as Barker has also added promising Ghanaian central defender Prince Annor Amponsah and Bafana Bafana wing-back Basil Mphahlele to maintain the competitiveness from within the Stellies squad, particularly due to the congested early season fixture pile up.
“A lot of changes have been made to the squad. We brought in 10 players,” Barker said.
“I think the make-up of the squad was to have depth in every position. We brought in Basil Mphahlele, who is a really good right back, and Sibanda at left back is good cover for (Fawaaz) Basardien.
“We play so many games, the MTN8, the Carling Cup and the DStv Premiership, before the end of December that the ability to have fresh running legs with the quality that they bring is part of the plan.”
Meanwhile, Western Cape neighbours Cape Town City will be looking to build on their own opening day victory over Polokwane City by exacting revenge over Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium on Wednesday. City lost 3-2 in the corresponding fixture last season.
Equally, Cape Town Spurs will be home for a first DStv Premiership home victory when they host Sekhukhune United also on Wednesday evening at the Athlone Stadium.