Stel­len­bosch out to skin Leop­ards

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ROD­NEY REINERS

STEL­LEN­BOSCH FC coach Sammy Troughton faces a few head-scratch­ing de­ci­sions as he prepares to send his team out to play Black Leop­ards in the sec­ond pro­mo­tion play-off fix­ture at the Tho­hoyan­dou Sta­dium this af­ter­noon (kick­off 3pm).

The Cape Winelands team drew its open­ing play-off match 2-2 against Baroka FC at Athlone on Wed­nes­day. Be­cause of this, hav­ing failed to win at home, Troughton knows that Stel­len­bosch can­not af­ford to lose to­day.

Al­ready dis­ap­pointed with his team’s per­for­mance against Baroka, the coach now has to make some cru­cial de­ci­sions about the way for­ward, es­pe­cially if Stel­len­bosch are to achieve their am­bi­tion of pro­mo­tion to the PSL.

For Troughton, the first ques­tion is about the ap­proach against Leop­ards. Does he go all-out at­tack and risk be­ing caught out on the counter? Or does he try the op­po­site – al­low Leop­ards to come at them and hit back on the tran­si­tion? Ei­ther strat­egy has its draw­backs – but Troughton has to for­mu­late a game plan that pre­vents his team from los­ing while, at the same time, el­e­vat­ing their chances of win­ning.

An­other de­ci­sion to be made is with re­gard to per­son­nel. It’s no se­cret that Troughton was un­happy with a few of his play­ers in the mid­week game against Baroka. After­wards, he spoke of fresh­en­ing up the squad for to­day’s match. And, here, the big op­tion, of course, is the re­turn from sus­pen­sion of Manti Mekoa. The ex­pe­ri­enced mid­fielder has been in­flu­en­tial dur­ing Stel­len­bosch’s cam­paign in the National First Di­vi­sion (NFD) – and his ab­sence was felt against Baroka. It’s more than likely that Troughton will thrust Mekoa straight back into ac­tion to­day.

Oth­ers who could come into con­tention if the coach wants to change things, to bring some fresh­ness to the team, are de­fender Ja­son Skip­pers, strik­ers Cleophas Dube and Brent Ado­nis, and mid­fielder Jamie Web­ber.

Troughton is de­mand­ing more en­ergy and in­ten­sity from his play­ers. With a place in the PSL on of­fer for the even­tual win­ner, play­ers should be per­form­ing out of their skins to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity. But, even though Stel­len­bosch showed char­ac­ter to come back twice against Baroka, over­all, their per­for­mance lacked zip and zeal.

Troughton’s pri­or­ity is to im­press on the squad the need for greater an­i­ma­tion, for greater com­mit­ment, and for more sparkle and po­tency.

Leop­ards are on a great run of form un­der Bel­gian coach, Jean Francois Losci­uto. The 44-year-old took charge of the team in Novem­ber last year and the Lim­popo Prov­ince side has made great strides since his ar­rival. He has im­proved the team’s tac­ti­cal dis­ci­pline, and in­fused the play­ers with more de­sire and com­mit­ment. Losci­uto has ex­pe­ri­ence of coach­ing on the con­ti­nent, hav­ing worked in Rwanda, Burk­ina Faso and Togo, as well as a stint as Nige­ria’s as­sis­tant coach, and he’s sure to have Leop­ards breath­ing fire against Stel­len­bosch to­day.

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