Kaizer Chiefs newly signed striker, Ashley Du Preez has opened up on his emotional decision to leave boyhood club Stellenbosch FC in order to pursue a career-defining move to Kaizer Chiefs.
Born and raised in Idas Valley, the community that has passionately embraced Stellenbosch FC, local boy-turned fan favourite Ashley Du Preez embodies much of what the Cape Winelands-based outfit has sought to create since the club came into existence in 2016.
The Steve Barker-led outfit pride themselves on devotion to youth development and providing opportunities to local talent and found a flagbearer in the form of Du Preez, whose progression from raw teenager to national team hopeful has served as a beacon of hope for other aspirant footballers.
The 24-year-old made his professional debut with Stellies as a fledgling 18-year-old in the National First Division before helping the club achieve promotion to the DStv Pre9miership in 2019, where, despite struggling initially, he quickly became a key figure at the club both and off the pitch over the last three seasons.
This time last year, he had narrowly escaped relegation with Stellenbosch after a campaign in which he scored only twice, before embarking on a career-best return in the 2021/22 season by scoring nine times and recording three assists as the team fell agonizingly short of securing qualification to the CAF Confederation Cup.
His impressive form in the league earned him a call-up to the provisional squad for South Africa’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Morocco next month, albeit that he never made the final 23-man selection, and caught the attention of teams across the country, with champions Mamelodi Sundowns long linked with his services.
It was Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs who ultimately came calling though, and the four-time Premiership champions completed a deal to secure his signature on a three-year deal on Monday after reportedly activating a release clause in his contract with Stellenbosch.
“I feel happy and sad,” an emotional Du Preez said in an exclusive interview with Kickoff.com. “I feel happy and sad, but I am excited to take on this new chapter in my life and my career at Kaizer Chiefs. I am looking forward to it.
“I had an amazing time at Stellenbosch. I will miss the club, the players, the coaches, everything. What this club has done for me is amazing. They helped me so much and…” Du Preez breaks away momentarily in order to gather himself. “It’s hard to get the words out to even talk about what this club has done for me.
“It was a hard, hard, hard, hard decision to make to leave Stellenbosch. I thought about it for a long time whether or not I wanted to leave or if should stay but if you want to go further in your career, and if you want to go abroad one day, these are the things you have to do.
“These are the decisions you have to make. I do want to go further in my football career, and I want to go abroad, and this is one step that will open many doors in the future ahead.
“The last 12 months have been up and down, and I couldn’t have imagined being in this position. I never thought I’d be able to be in this position. Stellenbosch helped me so much to showcase my abilities so all thanks go to them. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be back one day. I want to come back at the end of my career and play at home again for a few seasons.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that I will be back one day.”
Du Preez’s departure from the club where he had spent his entire career is bittersweet in nature but the opportunity to represent Kaizer Chiefs, one of the biggest teams in South Africa, was one that he could never pass up in his pursuit of competing for titles, claiming a spot with the national team and eventually earning a move abroad.
“The way I played this season, I wanted teams to look at me and see that I am actually a good player compared to the last two seasons,” he adds. “I wanted it, I wanted these teams like Chiefs to look at me, and to get the Bafana Bafana call-up and play for South Africa.
“One of the reasons behind my decision to join Chiefs is to try and help the club win trophies again and to test myself in a different environment and at a different club – at a big club like Chiefs. I’m looking forward to joining the Amakhosi family and I know that the fans will welcome me and support me because Chiefs is my new team.”
Chiefs’ decision to sign Du Preez, who predominantly operates as a left-sided winger or inside forward, comes at a time when the club is looking to bolster its attacking options ahead of next season with the likes of Samir Nurković, Lazarous Kambole and Leonardo Castro all expected to leave Naturena in the coming weeks.
His return of nine goals in the league for Stellies during the recently-concluded DStv Premiership campaign was more than any Chiefs player managed in the league, while his combined goal contributions tally – goals including assists – was bettered only by the back-in-form Khama Billiat.
Du Preez’s blistering pace, combined with his newfound proficiency in front of goal, proved to be the catalyst for Stellenbosch’s remarkable domestic run this season and it is these same qualities that he hopes to use to devastating effect once he is able to pull on the famous gold and black strip.
“The defenders in this league don’t have what I have…”
“That’s the thing I want to bring to Chiefs – goals to help the team,” he concludes. “I always want to help the team, I did it for Stellenbosch and they did it for me, and this is what I want to do at Chiefs as well. I want to score and help other players get on the scoresheet.
“I’ve been watching Chiefs and I played against them twice. They have good strikers and strong strikers but I could see in the team that they lack players who run in behind the defence or get one-v-one with the goalkeeper.
“What they lack at the moment is pace players who can get in behind the defenders. The defenders in this league don’t have what I have, they don’t have that pace. All of that is what I can bring to help Chiefs win games.”