Stellenbosch and Richards Bay were goalless at half-time when a bus load of supporters arrived from Cape Town after a 21-hour journey. The Stellenbosch supporters rushed into the stadium and, strategically, took up a position behind the team’s dugout to make sure the team knew their 12th man had arrived.
That was the cue for Stellenbosch to fire the first scoring salvo and six minutes later, Devin Titus netted. The supporters raised their inspiration a few more notches and as the second half wore on, Stellenbosch delivered the coup de grâce with two goals in 17 minutes courtesy of Antonio van Wyk and Anicet Oura.
In football terminology, a team parks the bus when it defends without trying to attack. On Saturday, however, Stellenbosch’s attack went full throttle as soon as their supporters parked their bus.
“Massive, massive achievement for the club and to see our supporters travelling from Cape Town by bus to get here, and they got here at half-time,” said Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker.
“I think when they got here, our players turned it on. It does feel like it is our destiny (to win the Carling Knockout), but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
“Maybe it’s all the years of me supporting Carling Black Label that I am getting something from them.”
Barker felt the opening goal set the stage for his side’s grand finish.
“We had a really good second half. Once we got the first goal, I think it settled our nerves,” said Barker.
“I thought in the first half we played a little bit cagey. But I think one can’t put into context how important and big of a victory this is for the club.”
The showdown against Richards Bay was also a personal triumph for goal poacher Iqraam Rayners, a crowd favourite. He was not among the scorers, but the fans voted him the player of the match. Rayners had been in previous Stellenbosch teams that have come a cropper in the semi-finals.
He was highly relieved that the team scaled the hurdle this time. “I want to say thanks to the man above. It means a lot to us because two semi-finals ago we missed out on going to the finals,” said Rayners.
“I’m happy to be in a final, finally. For us, we had to kill the game in the first half, but we didn’t get many opportunities.
“In the second half we came out stronger and I knew we were going to win the game, so I am happy. We started a bit slow, and in the second half we came out with a bit of intensity, a bit of a fight because they were more physical, and we knew that they weren’t going to keep up with us.”
Rayners has been striking it rich in the Carling Knockout after pocketing R100 000 for the man-of-the-match award. Since he has already won two awards in earlier rounds, he has swollen his bank balance by a whopping R300 000.
Stellenbosch will be returning to Durban – no doubt with their supporters in tow – for the Carling Knockout final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 16.