Stellies cannot slip up a third time in battle with Pirates for second: Barker

Fight for Champions League berth goes down to the wire

21 May 2024 - 11:29
By Sihle Ndebele
Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker during a training session at Lentelus Sports Ground in Stellenbosch on Monday.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker during a training session at Lentelus Sports Ground in Stellenbosch on Monday.

Orlando Pirates' chances of qualifying for next season's Caf Champions League are now slim after their 1-0 loss to TS Galaxy at Mbombela Stadium at the weekend, failing to put the matter in their own hands.

It was Pirates' second defeat on the trot, coach Jose Riveiro's Soweto giants having lost by a similar scoreline at home to relegation-battling Richards Bay the previous weekend.

That means Bucs have failed to take advantage of Stellies losing twice in the past fortnight. Coach Steve Barker's high-flying Cape side slipped up with a 2-0 defeat against relegation-battling Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium last week, then became another team unable to inflict a first league defeat of the season on champions Mamelodi Sundowns, going down 1-0 at Athlone Stadium on Saturday.

So Stellies (50 points from 29 games) remain in second going into Saturday's final round, separated by a point from third-placed Pirates. Barker's team will end in second place if they beat second last-placed Richards Bay FC at King Zwelithini Stadium.

If they lose or draw, Pirates will hope to make it third time lucky taking advantage of a Stellies slip-up, needing a win against SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium. Matsatsantsa, who have often had the upper hand against Pirates, beat Bucs 3-1 in the first round. 

Barker said Stellenbosch need to prevent such a scenario with a win.

“I don't think we can get three lifelines in three weeks, so it's our responsibility next week to win a football match against Richards Bay, which would then turn out to be a really incredible season for us. It's still in our own hands,'' the coach said.

Barker, who also steered Stellies to the Carling Knockout trophy this season, rued the penalty the Premiership's second-top scorer Iqraam Rayners missed against the Brazilians. The coach felt his team deserved at least a share of the spoils against the runaway, seven-time successive champions.

“The penalty miss is huge. Against a team of their calibre you don't get many opportunities, so when you get an opportunity from a penalty spot and you don't score, an already tough task becomes even tougher.

“I am a bit disappointed we weren't able to get at least a point. I thought it was a good football match. It was a really good tactical battle.”

Sphiwe Mahlangu scored Galaxy's goal that sank Pirates on Saturday, while Lesiba Nku netted for Sundowns against Stellies.

Remaining 2023-24 DStv Premiership fixtures 


  • TS Galaxy vs Mamelodi Sundowns, Mbombela Stadium (7.30pm)

Final round — Saturday (all 3pm):

  • AmaZulu vs Lamontville Golden Arrows, Moses Mabhida Stadium
  • Mamelodi Sundowns vs Cape Town City, Loftus Versfeld
  • Moroka Swallows vs Royal AM, Dobsonville Stadium
  • Richards Bay vs Stellenbosch FC, King Zwelithini Stadium
  • Cape Town Spurs vs Kaizer Chiefs, Athlone Stadium
  • Orlando Pirates vs SuperSport United, Orlando Stadium
  • Chippa United vs Sekhukhune United, Buffalo City Stadium
  • Polokwane City vs TS Galaxy, Old Peter Mokaba Stadium