from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – STELLENBOSCH Football Club are bearing the scars of exceeding expectations in their debut season in the top flight.
The premiership side from the Western Cape, still reveling in the glory of finishing a respectable tenth on the log in the just-ended Absa Premiership campaign, nonetheless has some major injury woes to contend with.
Customarily, a team making its debut in the top tier of local football is a favourite to head straight back to the division or at least finish in the playoff berth.
Stellies, as Stellenbosch FC is widely known in the local premiership football punched above its weight and managed to finish mid-table.
However, they are bearing the brunt of that imperious finish in tenth, with injuries to key players.
Zambian midfielder, Nathan Sinkala, and South African counterpart, Mpho Matsi, are the major casualties.
The 30-year-old Matsi, a well-travelled defensive midfielder, has a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
The former Arcadia, Black Aces and Maritzburg United player sustained the injury against Golden Arrows in August.
Results of a recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan indicated the extent of the injury.
The Mamelodi-born Matsi, who played only two minutes in that last appearance against Arrows, is thus in a race against time to be fit for preseason, with the new league scheduled to kick off on October 9.
Zambian defensive midfielder Sinkala is carrying a groin injury he aggravated in Stellenbosch’s last match of the past season, a 1-0 loss to Orlando Pirates last Saturday.
The 29-year-old enforcer confirmed the injury would take at least a week to heal.
Sinkala summed up how the season progressed for the Cape Winelands side.
“We achieved our goal,” he said of the club’s goal of retaining its Premiership status.
Coach Steve Barker’s team preserved its status with a 1-1 draw against Kaizer Chiefs on match-day 27.
“At the same time, it was disappointing we did not utilize the chance to finish in the top eight.”
Stellenbosch lost out on a top eight finish by three points, after accumulating 36 points. Bloemfontein Celtic sealed the last berth in the top eight, ahead of Highlands Park on goal difference.
– CAJ News