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Stellenbosch FC advanced to the Carling Knockout semi-finals after defeating Polokwane City

Stellenbosch FC advanced to the Carling Knockout semi-finals on Friday night after defeating Polokwane City 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

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Stellies advanced to their third consecutive semi-final with early goals from Iqraam Rayners and Devin Titus at a frigid Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Season after season, Stellies have created a threat in the early stages of cup tournaments only to falter when it mattered most – in the last two phases.

That is why they will only have themselves to blame in this tournament if they do not seize control of the situation by reaching the final.

After defeating Chippa United 2-1 away in Gqeberha in the last 16, they cruised past Polokwane in the quarter-finals, winning 2-0.

By the first 20 minutes, Steve Barker’s men had all but declared the game a foregone conclusion, leading 2-0 and drowning out the raucous backing of the locals.

Jaydin Adams shone in the first, slicing past Polokwane’s defense with an interchange with Genino Palace before setting up Rayners.

Rayners easily tapped past the vulnerable Manuel Sanuga for his first goal of the tournament, en route to his second Man of the Match award in this competition.

While fortune seemed to favor the visitors, Polokwane was dealt another blow when captain Bulelani Nikani was injured and replaced by Koketso Baloyi.

Rise and Shine’s lack of a leader was swiftly punished and exposed, as Stellies’ goalie Sage Stephens also got an odd assist.

Deep inside his own half, Stephens launched a weighted clearing that bounced Polokwane’s defense and found an unmarked Devin Titus, who tapped past Sapunga.

That lack of expectation seemed to highlight the absence of coach Lehlonolo Seema, who was returning to Lesotho due to a family bereavement.

Rise and Shine attempted to cut the score in half, but Stellies held solid in defense, repelling all threats that came their way.

Early in the first half, the two teams traded blows, but both defensive units held firm, notably Polokwane’s clearance of the ball off the line.

The standout save, however, came from Stephens, who deflected Oswin Appollis’ looping shot into the top corner over the crossbar midway through the half.

Granted, the effort didn’t pay off, but it seems to have instilled a fighting spirit in the 22-year-old who was exclusively responsible for Rise and Shine’s comeback.

But it wasn’t to be for Appolis, as Stellis held on for the victory – though he’ll take positives from his performance, especially after being named to Bafana Bafana’s preliminary team for the World Cup qualifiers later this month.