Stel­len­bosch draw on courage and hope for the best

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS

THERE IS yet to be a win­ning team in this sea­son’s tight and tense pro­mo­tion play-off cam­paign af­ter Stel­len­bosch reg­is­tered their sec­ond draw at the week­end. The Cape Winelands team, though, top the stand­ings with two points (draws against Baroka FC and Black Leop­ards), while the other two sides have a point each, hav­ing played just one game.

This week should sep­a­rate the con­tenders from the also-rans when Baroka host Leop­ards in Polok­wane on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon be­fore Stel­len­bosch con­tinue their quest for pro­mo­tion to the PSL with an away clash against Baroka on Satur­day (3pm).

If any­thing, though, Stel­len­bosch again demon­strated great courage and char­ac­ter in last Satur­day’s 0-0 draw with Leop­ards. It was game in which ev­ery­thing was against them, but their grit and per­se­ver­ance car­ried them to a vi­tal point.

The Tho­hoyan­dou Sta­dium in the Lim­popo Prov­ince was packed to ca­pac­ity with an in­tim­i­dat­ing and par­ti­san crowd. Ev­ery time the home side touched the ball, there were roars of ap­proval. To be the away team in such an at­mop­shere was re­ally dif­fi­cult un­der the cir­cum­stances.

To add to that, Stel­len­bosch were un­der the cosh from the open­ing whis­tle as Leop­ards threw ev­ery­thing at them in search of goals. And then, to make things even tougher, the Western Cape team was re­duced to 10 men in the clos­ing stages af­ter Diego Brown picked up a sec­ond yel­low card. But, de­spite all of this, Stel­len­bosch hung in there, they bat­tled, they tack­led, and they worked their socks off to en­sure they re­main in with a chance in the play­offs.

Goal­keeper Wash­ing­ton Arubi pulled off a few fine saves, de­fender Marcus Lecki was an im­mov­able pres­ence at the back, and the re­turn of Manti Mekoa pro­vided Stel­len­bosch with a steely pres­ence in cen­tral mid­field. (Mekoa missed the pre­vi­ous play-off game against Baroka through sus­pen­sion). While those three de­serve spe­cial men­tion, ev­ery sin­gle player stood tall for Stel­len­bosch on the day. It was a su­perb, de­fen­sive team per­for­mance, in the face of mo­ti­vated op­po­si­tion.

Stel­len­bosch coach Sammy Troughton ad­mit­ted they were sec­ond-best on the day, but was, nev­er­the­less, proud of the way his team re­sponded.

“We parked two buses out there,” said Troughton. “It was dif­fi­cult, Leop­ards were buzzing and they were re­ally in­spired by the crowd they had behind them. But we put up great re­sis­tance, we put our bod­ies on the line, we tack­led and we showed fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter. I was re­ally proud of the ef­fort.”

Troughton, though, knows that, with two games re­main­ing, they are go­ing to have to show more at­tack­ing qual­ity.

“The play­ers looked a lit­tle leggy dur­ing the Leop­ards game,” he said. “It’s been a tough, de­mand­ing last few days, but we now have a few days of rest be­fore we get back into ac­tion on Satur­day. It’s some time for the guys to re­cover and then we will have to come out with more at­tack­ing in­tent against Baroka.

“I’ve told the play­ers that, in this competition, we are go­ing to have to be men­tally strong. Baroka will be tough on Satur­day, but we will have to be ready.”

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