Stellenbosch facing defensive crisis after Chiefs defeat

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Stellenbosch FC will be without the services of captain Rafiq De Goede against Golden Arrows following his sending off against Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday.
Stellenbosch FC will be without the services of captain Rafiq De Goede against Golden Arrows following his sending off against Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday.

Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker has lamented the club's defensive crisis this season which has been exacerbated by the dismissal of captain Rafiq De Goede over the weekend.

Stellies are likely to head into Friday's DStv Premiership clash against Golden Arrows without the services of three of their four recognised centre-backs, with Athenkosi Mcaba and Lasse Sobiech still returning to full fitness and captain De Goede suspended after being sent off in Sunday's 3-1 defeat to Kaizer Chiefs.

The club is also without midfielder Oshwin Andries, who has starred in a less familiar defensive role when called upon this season, as the development graduate is currently captaining the South Africa U-20 team in their U20 AFCON Egypt 2023 COSAFA qualifying campaign.

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That leaves Vusi Sibiya, an off-season signing from Baroka FC, and youngster Olwethu Makhanya, who made his senior debut as a substitute against Chiefs over the weekend, as the only choices seemingly available to the Winelands-based outfit ahead of their trip to Kwa-Zulu Natal.

"Defensively, we've just been not as good as I want us to be but in the centre-back position, it's been like a nightmare from day one where there have been injuries, players away on national duty, red cards," head coach Steve Barker said in his post-match press conference on Sunday.

"Eventually, we ended up playing with a youngster who only joined us a couple of months back finishing the game, Olwethu Makhanya. So, we just haven't had consistency at central defence which does also play a role when it comes to having that solid defensive unit when you're having to keep changing week in and week out.

"I think there's only been two games where we have been able to consecutively play the same centre-back pairing, so it's been a bit unfortunate."

Barker also revealed that Bafana Bafana international Mcaba and former Borussia Dortmund defender Sobiech, who arrived as a marquee signing from SV Darmstadt in June, had returned to training but were both unlikely to feature in Friday's encounter against Arrows.

"At this stage, it may seem like it," the 54-year-old added when asked if Makhanya would earn his first start in their absence.

"Athenkosi Mcaba is back in training but probably won't be ready to play a match by Friday and it's a similar situation with Lasse Sobiech."

He also lamented the absence of Andries, who the club were not compelled to release due to the U-20 qualifiers falling outside of the FIFA international calendar, and questioned SAFA over an apparent double standard when it came to the timing of his departure and the release of other players from Kaizer Chiefs.

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"We wanted to bring back Oshwin Andries, due to our central defence difficulties, but SAFA pleaded and phoned us at midnight the day before they were supposed to go to Swaziland and said, 'Please, he's going to be our captain. Can we keep him?' We said yes, in that case let's help our country. Sometimes there are bigger things.

"But the same team had Kaizer Chiefs players playing in their DDC team and at the Engen tournament who didn't attend the camp, that then go to [the final squad]. So what's the purpose of having a camp if players who are from the same team as the coach (Vela Khumalo) don't go to camp?

"In hindsight, I should have just forced it and brought back Oshwin Andries, but we also try to be a club that helps the national teams..."

Stellies' magnanimity to the situation paid dividends for the South Africa U-20 team who, after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Malawi in their opening qualifier, bounced back with a 5-2 win over Namibia on Monday, with Andries scoring twice and being named Man of the Match for his performance.

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