Stellies will dip into DDC champion side to bolster squad for Africa: Barker

16 May 2024 - 11:27
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Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker.
Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Regardless of what happens in their remaining two matches of the DStv Premiership campaign, Stellenbosch will play continental club football next season. 

If second-placed Stellies (50 points from 28 games) get all the six points against champions Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday at Athlone Stadium (3pm) and Richards Bay on May 25 at King Zwelithini Stadium, they will secure a spot in the Champions League for the first time. 

If things don’t go their way and they are overtaken by third-placed Orlando Pirates (48 points from 28 matches), who have TS Galaxy and SuperSport United in their remaining games, Stellenbosch will play in the Confederation Cup. 

Playing continental football means Stellies must significantly boost their squad and coach Steve Barker says the club's technical staff and management are already discussing a player recruitment strategy. 

“We are mindful of it and we will address it and make sure we are able to compete competitively on all fronts,” said Barker when asked about his plans for next season. 

Sundowns have 36 players in their squad, mostly with vast experience of criss-crossing the continent for Champions League commitments, but they still feel the effects of a congested fixture list and travelling.

Barker said Stellenbosch will also look at their DStv Diski Challenge (DDC) U-23 and reserve team that won that league in 2023-2024 to offer them options while also recruiting proven experience elsewhere. 

Stellies secured the DDC title with a 4-3 victory over Lamontville Golden Arrows’ reserve side at Tsakane Stadium on Saturday.

“We have already had those discussions on the number of players who will be joining the first team [from the reserve side] — if they are not in the match-day squad then they will go and get minutes [back] at the DDC.

“There have been some standout performances and they deserve a reward of getting contracts with the PSL squad. You can’t win a league and not have quality among those players. 

“There are those we have identified and they will train with us until the end of the season and then they will have a good break and come back for preseason to compete for positions next season. 

“That has worked for us in the past and that’s where we will continue to do it, with players coming in to get opportunities and those who are not playing will continue to add value for our DDC team.” 

Stellenbosch expelled Kgaogelo Sekgota and Darrel Matsheke this season over disciplinary issues and Barker said their departure affected his squad's depth. 

“Even without injuries we can feel it [a lack of numbers]. We are mindful of that and during the season we lost a few players due to ill-discipline and at that stage it is difficult to replace them and that took our numbers down a bit. 

“The DDC team has also been pushing to win the league and some of our players have been more involved with them than we expected, but it is important for us to build winning mentality. 

“We have players in our first team who have won the league [in the 2020-2021 DDC] and now we are going to have another group that has also won the league. So we're building winning mentality at the club and hopefully one day it will allow us to challenge as a PSL team.” 

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