Stellies aim to capitalise on Matsatsantsa’s patchy form

STELLENBOSCH FC coach Steve Barker during the Nedbank Cup quarter-final draw. | BackpagePix

STELLENBOSCH FC coach Steve Barker during the Nedbank Cup quarter-final draw. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 13, 2024


STELLENBOSCH FC coach Steve Barker will look to shed the ‘nearly man’ tag when he leads his charges against Gavin Hunt’s SuperSport United in the Winelands’ Danie Craven Stadium in their Nedbank Cup quarter-final today (3pm kick-off).

This will be familiar territory for Hunt, who has reached the final of this competition four times and reigned supreme twice.

He won the 2004 final with Moroka Swallows at a time when the cup was named the Absa Cup. In 2012, he guided SuperSport to the Nedbank Cup final. He came within a whisker of doubling that haul after finishing runners-up in the 2013 and 2014 finals.

As one of the country’s most decorated coaches, Hunt, a four-time Coach of the Year winner, reached the Nedbank Cup three times in a row. It was an extraordinary run.

In the opposite dugout this afternoon will be Barker, who achieved the remarkable feat of guiding the second-tier University of Pretoria (AmaTuks) to the 2009 Nedbank Cup final. However, AmaTuks lost 1-0 to Swallows.

Barker disposed of Premiership sides en route to the final but finished as the Nedbank Cup’s ‘nearly man’ that season.

Barker has dug into his 2009 final experience, although he’s more likely to be buoyed by his Carling Knockout Cup conquest last year. En route to the final, he guided Stellenbosch to victory over mighty Mamelodi Sundowns.

Hunt would have known how elated Barker was because he claimed the Carling Knockout title with Bidvest Wits in 2017 when the competition was known as the Telkom Cup.

New Zealand international Andre de Jong has been one of the stand-out players for Stellenbosch this season. Last December, Stellenbosch won the Carling Knockout and the club has completed a 20-game sequence without defeat across all competitions.

De Jong has picked up on SuperSport’s “patchy” form in the league of late. In their last five matches, SuperSport drew four times and suffered a defeat.

“SuperSport are a very tricky team. They pose a lot of threats, especially going forward, but hopefully we can keep the same form that we’ve been in and progress to the semi-finals. I think their league form has been a bit patchy but it’s a cup game so anything can happen on the day. There’s no easy quarter-final game,” said De Jong.

“As a team, we are excited for this game. It’s a big game for the club to try and get into another semi-final. We hope to go one better this year and make the final.”

In stark contrast, Stellenbosch’s league form has been superb with three wins and two draws in their last five games. These statistics were not lost on Hunt.

“They are in a good position at second in the league. They have sold and bought well, which is important,” said Hunt.

“(Iqraam) Rayners has changed their whole season. Last season they were bottom of the league at one stage. They haven’t looked back since he has gone there from us (SuperSport). They have done well in the market.

“It is a rugby pitch (at Danie Craven Stadium) and it’s always difficult to play there, so we will have a couple of ways of doing things. The tactical approach will change according to the conditions.”