Ajax at 'full strength' for Bucs clash

It will be business as usual for Ajax Cape Town when they face Orlando Pirates in the Telkom Knockout final at Durban’s Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday night. Kick-off is at 8.15pm.

That was the word from the Urban Warriors coach Craig Roslee on Tuesday, as his side gets ready to do the “double” over the Buccaneers.

Roslee led Ajax to a stunning 1-0 win over Pirates in their Absa Premiership showdown played at the Johannesburg Stadium last Saturday night and that win has given much confidence to the players and has boosted the Cape club’s hopes of winning the Knockout for the first time.

Roslee fired the first broadside at Pirates when he stated: “The pressure is on Pirates. We do not have anything to prove.
We beat Pirates in their own backyard which has given us belief we can do it at a neutral venue like Chatsworth.

“The fact Pirates did not threaten us in the league means that I will be able to sleep a lot easier than Pirates coach [Ruud Krol].”

Psychological advantage
Roslee said he had also won a psychological war over Pirates: “Pirates failed to play some of their top players such as Teko Modise plus their captain Lehlohonono Seema against us because they were scared that as they were on two bookings a third against us last weekend would have meant they would be suspended for the final.

“I refused to worry about that and fielded my best side, whether or not players were on two bookings. I was proved right, despite my top defender, Eduardo Ferreira, being booked and ruled out of the final.”

Roslee appealed against the Brazilian defender’s yellow card but was told the booking would stand as clubs cannot appeal a caution, only a red card.

But Roslee was still angry after he was told a mistake had been made by the match official in booking Ferreira, but that the booking still stood.

“It does not make sense but in a way I expected something like this to happen. We will simply get on with trying to win the cup,” the Urban Warriors coach said.

The coach was philosophical about losing Ferreira, who will be replaced at the heart of the defence by veteran Martin Carelse.

“This might work in our favour as Carelse could be better suited picking up and man-marking Pirates striker Gilbert Mushangazhike. Ferreira is bigger and has more physical presence, but the smaller Carelse might just be the answer. This could work out nicely for us.”

Roslee added that while Pirates had a point to prove after losing last weekend, his players could get on with preparing for the cup final.

Hungry for a win
“We are relaxed and in the best possible shape both physically and mentally.” But Roslee stressed it will be down to “who wants it most on the night”.

“Cup finals are great levellers and it is down to the hungrier side. From what I have seen of my players this week I have no worries about their appetite for winning this final.”

He said his players were fine-tuned after being on the road for five weeks.

“The biggest boost was waking up on Monday morning and seeing Ajax at the top of the Premiership,” Roslee said.

“Those three points we took off Pirates could be gold in more ways than one. Being on top of the table going into a major final has lifted the players spirits and will to win this cup to greater heights.”

While Bucs have midfield magician Modise, fellow midfielders Bennett Chenene, Lebo Mothibantwa, Seema and Mushangazhike back, Ajax welcome back their hat-trick hero Sifiso Vilakazi, who netted all three goals in the 3-2 semifinal win over Free State Stars, plus talented winger Sameehg Doutie.

Both were suspended for last week’s league clash. First-choice keeper Sean Roberts also returns from injury to bolster the Urban Warriors hopes.

“Apart from Ferreira we are at full strength and looking forward to Saturday night,” said Roslee.—Sapa

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