By Charlie Moody-Stuart
Stellenbosch Football Club (FC) held firm to defeat Kaizer Chiefs FC by 1 – 0 in an enthralling encounter at the Danie Craven Stadium.
On the sunny evening of 23 April, a jubilant atmosphere vivified a near-full stadium. The encounter was the first time that fans were allowed back into the stadium for a DStv Premiership match since the COVID-19 pandemic began. If the sea of maroon- and yellow-clad supporters was anything to go by, the significance of the occasion was not lost on those on the ground.
For the first time in history, Stellenbosch beat the Soweto Giants in the League Double, having also beaten them in the reverse fixture back in November.
However, victory for Stellenbosch was by no means guaranteed. Even after a turbulent week—in which the Kaizer Chiefs head coach, Stuart Baxter, was dismissed two days prior to kick-off—it was the Chiefs who started off stronger.
For the first 19 minutes, they comfortably pegged the Maroons back in their own half, though they were unable to trouble Stellenbosch goalkeeper Sage Stephens; however, they soon paid for their complacency.
On the 20-minute mark, Stellenbosch wing-back Dean van Rooyen sprinted after a through ball by the impressive Judas Moseamedi, before slamming the ball—potentially too easily—past Chiefs goalkeeper Brandon Petersen.
This rattled the Amakhosi, who almost conceded another when Ashley du Preez narrowly fired wide after Mosamedi had yet again thread the eye of the needle with another delicate through ball.
Although they were without the ball for long periods, Stellenbosch were rarely troubled at the back and posed a constant threat on the counter. Petersen atoned for the soft goal he had conceded by denying Maroon Moseamedi with his knee, after the latter had raced clear of the Chiefs’ high line early in the second half.
It was only after the introduction of substitute Nkosingiphile Ngcobo that the otherwise anodyne Amakhosi attack was revitalised. Ngcobo almost stole a late equaliser with a well struck effort, only for it to be plucked from the air by Stephens.
As second-year BCom (Management Sciences) student Afika Xundu noted, there was no shortage of support from the spectators.
“I found the atmosphere was vibrant in the stands . . . especially the Kaizer Chiefs fans—they showed up and stayed singing the whole game, even when they were losing.”
Another student—Laura Schmidt, from Germany—was similarly gripped by the enthusiasm of the fans. “I really enjoyed the atmosphere. You could really feel the extraordinary vibe. It was more than just watching a football match; it was more like an African party. People were dancing, singing and enjoying themselves. Although some were enjoying their drinks a little bit too much.
“It is different from the atmosphere you get when you watch football in Europe,” Schmidt added.
Currently, Chiefs are on 43 points and in fourth place, whilst Stellenbosch are on 41 points and fifth in the table.