04 October 2019, by: Laduma Analytics
Stellenbosch FC: Are the rookies’ foundations strong enough?
There have been 18 teams promoted to the PSL from the National First Division over the last ten seasons. League ‘newbies’ or ‘rookies’ as they are sometimes known, can either surprise everyone and thrive in the top-flight or they can find the going tough & struggle to adapt to a new, tougher environment.
Highlands Park falls into the former camp – promoted at the end of the 2017/18 season, they finished 7th in the 2018/19 season on return and have gone all the way to the MTN8 final as well in 2019/20. With a quarter of the season past, the question of survival has been asked of Stellenbpsch as well, in the first season back up.
In the last ten seasons, six newly-promoted sides have gone on to be relegated after their first top-flight campaign. It may be too early to talk about relegation for Stellenbosch, as we’re still in the first quarter of the season (61 of the 240 total matches have been played now), but it would also be naive to ignore some of the numbers stacking up around the men from the Cape Winelands.
Only once in the last ten seasons has a newly-promoted side started the first seven games of the season with less than Stellenbosch’s four points – Jomo Cosmos collected just three points in their seven games in the 2011/12 season on their way to relegation.
As shown below, the Cape team were also just the fourth league newbie to pick up four points or less after seven games in those ten years, after Jomo Cosmos (2011/12 & 2015/15) and Polokwane City in 2013/14.
Before beating Polokwane City on Wednesday, Steve Barker’s men were part of an unwanted club of five newly-promoted sides that had failed to win any of their opening seven games in the 30-game PSL era, including Jomo Cosmos (2011 and 2015), Free State Stars (2005) and Platinum Stars (2004).
Only one of these (Platinum Stars) survived relegation after such a poor start. Hopefully, the victory over Polokwane City in their eight match should help them kickstart a good run of form.
The issue of goals
With almost a quarter of the season played, Stellenbosch have scored eight goals in eight games. Although Stellenbosch failed to score in their first three games, they remained solid, allowing just one goal past them. Thanks to Waseem Isaacs and some own-goal fortune, they started scoring, banging eight in their next five games.
The only problem was they also started to concede, letting in eight during that time. Averaging almost a goal per game by itself is not a bad return. However, when you’re also conceding two goals per game (as they have in three of their last four games), that may be a handicap.
On one hand, they are conceding early goals – only a leaky Orlando Pirates defence (3 goals in the opening 15 minutes) has let in more than the two goals Stellenbosch has in the opening period of matches. More worryingly, Stellenbosch are conceding a lot of late goals.
Steve Barker’s men have leaked six goals in the final half-hour of league matches, more than any other PSL side. The clean sheet against Polokwane in their last match was their first since August and gave some positive signs.
PSL experience must count
Having won promotion to the PSL directly after winning the NFD last season, the Stellenbosch hierarchy went about their transfer business intending to secure experienced PSL players.
Morgan Gould (ex Kaizer Chiefs and Superport), Marc van Heerden (ex-Amazulu), Robyn Johannes (ex-Wits) and Mpho Matsi (ex-Cape Town City & Maritzburg) are experienced players who featured for top clubs in past seasons.
They complemented experience by adding youngsters like Ryan Moon (Kaizer Chiefs) and Nyiko Mobbie (Sundowns), who have also played in the PSL. The visual below shows how a balanced mixture of PSL-proven players and players new to the PSL has been part of the coach’s plan.