CAPE TOWN – The iconic rugby venue, the Danie Craven Stadium, has been upgraded to Premier Soccer League standards and will in future be the home venue for Premiership rookies Stellenbosch FC.
Stellenbosch FC chairman Rob Benade said the upgrading process had been held up by lockdown restrictions, but the project has now run its course.
“All that remains now is for the venue to be awarded the appropriate certification which will confirm that it is PSL compliant,” said Benade. “We worked according to an extensive list of parameters and checklists which stipulated what had to be implemented.
“Up to now, we’ve been nomads because we didn’t have a home venue. We were forced to use either Athlone or Cape Town Stadium, the two out-of-town venues which were PSL compliant.”
— Stellenbosch FC (@StellenboschFC) July 25, 2020
However, it will be months before Stellenbosch will be able to host a home match because the rest of the season will be played in Gauteng. There the PSL has identified a ‘bio-bubble’ (Biologically Safe Environment) and Benade was full of praise for the considerable efforts of national soccer.
“The work that was done by many to make the ‘bio-bubble’ safe for us to presume play is extraordinary,” said Benade.
“Stellies look forward to finishing the season on a high note and providing our supporters with some much-needed entertainment.”
Over the rest of the season, Stellenbosch will have Tuks (University of Pretoria) Stadium as their home venue in the ‘bio-bubble’. Stellenbosch will share the Tuks venue with fellow-hosts Bloemfontein Celtic.
However, home venues count for little since matches are played behind closed doors and players cannot draw inspiration from adoring fans in the stadium.
Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker says his main concern is picking up points in Gauteng.
“We have six fixtures remaining. I have said this since the beginning of the season, our target has always been 33 points,” said Barker, whose team is sitting in 11th position with 27 points.
“I have challenged my players to be the best team in the PSL in these remaining fixtures. There is no reason why we can’t be.
“Now that we have dates, we can prepare accordingly. Players have learnt all about compliance with protocols, and we are physically and mentally prepared.
“We have graduated from training in small groups to sessions of game-like situations.
“The delay in returning to play has given us more time to prepare for the remaining fixtures.”
Meanwhile, cross-town rivals Cape Town City FC are anxiously awaiting final details of their fixtures. Their ‘home’ venue in the bio-bubble will be Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
Their coach, veteran Dutch tactician Jan Olde Riekerink, said he needs match details to fine-tune his team’s preparations.
“It has been confirmed that we will play our home matches at Loftus Versfeld Stadium and we are feeling very positive about returning now,” said Olde Riekerink.
“We are still waiting for exact dates and times of our matches and until then, our preparation is not done yet.
“We have some MDC players in the mix who have been highlighted after having good performances throughout their season. We are excited to have them with us, they are some incredibly talented young boys.”
League fixtures will start on Tuesday, 11 August, and the plan is to play two rounds over each of the three weeks.
The PSL is expected to end the season with the Nedbank Cup final on Saturday, September 5.