Barker sees silver lining in loss to Sundowns

Steve Barker believes Stellenbosch learnt important lessons in their Nedbank Cup loss to Mamelodi Sundowns this past weekend. | BackpagePix

Steve Barker believes Stellenbosch learnt important lessons in their Nedbank Cup loss to Mamelodi Sundowns this past weekend. | BackpagePix

Published May 7, 2024


Zaahier Adams

All good things must come to an end.

That’s how Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker is viewing his team’s 2-1 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns in their thrilling Nedbank Cup semi-final.

The loss saw Stellies’ 25-match unbeaten run in all competitions draw to a close. Coincidentally, the last time Barker’s team tasted defeat was also against Sundowns back in September.

Antonio van Wyk of Stellenbosch returns the ball to the halfway line after Genino Palace scored against Mamelodi Sundowns at Danie Craven Stadium. | BackpagePix

Sundowns clinched their seventh successive league title last week after trouncing fallen Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs 5-1. They also reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League.

Barker, therefore, believes that his young team is making significant progress despite the loss.

“When you play a team that’s playing continental football you learn certain lessons,” Barker said.

“We were stuck between how much to press them and how to take control away but they were able to find spaces out wide with (Khuliso) Mudau and (Marcelo) Allende on the left.

“They broke our lines quite comfortably and put us under pressure, but then I felt we slowly got ourselves back into the game once we had figured that out. It was a harsh lesson to learn.

“But we got a bit of confidence and worked ourselves into a position where we started asking them questions and putting them on the back foot.

“We want to be playing on the continent ourselves. I believe, and confidently say, that we are on the right track. If we can push Sundowns the way we did, it’s a good sign for us,” he added.

Stellies are still in the golden position to book a place in CAF continental competitions for the first time next season.

Iqraam Rayners of Stellenbosch. | BackpagePix

The Winelands outfit is currently in second place in the DStv Premiership with 49 points from 26 matches – three ahead of Sundowns’ Nedbank Cup final opponents Orlando Pirates.

Barker’s charges have four matches remaining, starting with a home tie against AmaZulu tomorrow, before travelling to Dobsonville on Saturday to face Moroka Swallows. The final two games are against Sundowns (home) and Richards Bay (away).

With such little time between the defeat to Sundowns and the clash against the Usuthu, Stellies have to immediately refocus their energy on the opportunities ahead of them.

“It is always a tough one when an unbeaten record like that gets broken, coinciding with a semi-final defeat expending so much energy,” Barker said.

“So, it’s going to be a test to see how we react to it. We still have to be positive.

“I’ve told the players that … the next four league games will determine how good our season really was, as we have an opportunity to finish in the top three positions, as well as winning a cup and reaching two semis.

“I don’t think we need to be deflated because of one loss against a really good team. We showed once again that we are a really competitive team and what we can do. We need to come back to work knowing we gave it our best, and that it wasn’t to be, but there is still a lot to play for.”