Barker backing Tuks to bounce back

Steve Barker, the University of Pretoria coach, admits the club has had a poor start to the Absa Premiership season, but is confident they will bounce back enough to at least match their feats from their debut campaign.

AmaTuks have lost three out of their opening four games of the term – one was in the MTN8 – and only ended their pointless start to the Absa Premiership when they secured a goalless draw against Maritzburg United two weeks ago.

They had a storming maiden year in the top-flight league in 2012/13 when they ended eighth, 12 months after they were crowned National First Division champions.

“Every season is tough whether you finish in upper parts of the league or the lower parts,” Barker told “Our first season was tough and we knew that this season will also be tough if not tougher.

“We did anticipate it and we are mindful of that. But there’s no doubt we’ve moved on from the first season, we’ve now got that experience and I’m confident we’ll be able to have the same success we had lad last season.”

The coach believes that the loss of key players like Aubrey Ngoma, Bongani Zungu and Mame Niang has affected them, although he has no doubt the players they have brought in will prove adequate replacements.

Amongst those are Geofrey Massa and Atusaye Nyondo, who are now available after their work permits came through, as well as Namibian captain Ronald Ketjijere.

“We are little on the transition phase as we lost some quality players,” Barker said. “We are confident that we have equitably replaced them. Now that everyone is available we can hopefully click on.”

Apart from his concern over the settling in of players, Barker also conceded they had shortcomings in the final third in their opening three games.

“We need to be more clinical and take our opportunities better,” he said. “But if we continue to play the way we have been playing, there is no doubt in my mind that we will start accumulating points.”

The club is currently 14th on the log, ahead of their hosting of Bloemfontein Celtic at Tuks Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday.

Barker added that he expected the 2013/14 campaign to be even more closely contested than last year when a mere five points separated Bidvest Wits in fourth and Maritzburg United in 11th position.

“I think it will be even tighter all round,” he concluded. “It’s going to be quite tough. It’s no secret that there’s around six teams that have the resources and financial ability to bring in top class players and challenge for the championship.

“That leaves the other 10 teams battling it out for the rest of the positions, which are only two in the top eight.”