Evans in fitness race for Cup final

Ajax Cape Town captain and star defender Brett Evans, is in the biggest race of his career — fighting to get fit for Saturday’s MTN8 final against Golden Arrows at the Orlando Stadium.

Evans has missed the last four weeks through a groin/stomach injury but resumed serious training under new Urban Warriors coach Foppe De Haan on Monday.

Said Evans: ”I have trained hard for the past two days. But I know I am not 100 percent fit at the moment.

”However, I am determined to give myself every chance to play even if it means talking a pain killing injection. As captain I badly want to lift that trophy at the end of the final.”

The injury to their hard-running skipper is not the only blow to Ajax this month.

They lost coach Mushin Ertugral, who left to coach in his native Turkey two weeks ago. Ajax head of technical affairs Jan Pruijn, will be officially in charge on Saturday, but De Haan will have plenty of input during this week in the build up to the final.

Evans said while it was a shock to lose Ertugral, they were determined to finish the job he started: ”We all hoped Muhsin would be staying with us for a couple of seasons as we all rate him highly, but it was not to be.

”I understand why he left and wish him well.”

Evans believes Ajax’s greater experience of cup finals and in playing staff will see them through. This will be Arrows’ first appearance in a major cup final, while Ajax have three major knockout trophies under their belts. In 2000 they lifted the Rothmans Cup, in 2007 they won the Absa Cup and last season were the Telkom Knockout champions.

”I believe we have an edge in experience not just in winning cups but in players such as our goalkeeper Hans Vonk who has featured in major cup competitions in Holland for Heerenveen and Ajax Amsterdam, while the likes of our wingers Franklyn Cale and Sameehg Doutie, plus Dipsy Selolwane and Lance Davids in midfield give us more options,” said Evans.

However, Evans — who is also hoping to win his place back in the Bafana Bafana squad now that national coach Joel Santana has been sent packing back to Brazil after a disastrous 17 month reign is over — said he had a healthy respect for Arrows coach Manqiba Mngqithi.

”The Arrows coach is top class and his side is well organised. They play with pace on the wings and have striker Richard Henyekane to lead their attack.

”I also rate their midfielder Ntlantla Zothwane who has improved in leaps and bounds and could be a handful to deal with in the final.”

Arrows have seven draws in 10 league fixtures, but Evans believes the final will be an open match.

”Cup games especially finals are cut throat affairs and although Arrows can frustrate sides by defending in away matches, they have the quality to make this a memorable cup final.”

Evans is hoping for another classic, such as their semifinal second-leg against Kaizer Chiefs which ended 3-3 with Ajax winning 4-3 on aggregate, also played at a packed Orlando Stadium in August.

”I rate Orlando Stadium as the best ground I have played at. It has a fantastic atmosphere and hopefully it will be full on Saturday.

”What I love about it is the fans are close to the action. It reminds me of a top European venue.

”It is simply the best stadium in South Africa and the perfect venue for a cup final.”

But Evans is hoping the rain that has poured down in Gauteng this week will not wreck the pitch. ”We heard from Santos players how the pitch cut up when they beat [Orlando] Pirates 1-0 there last Saturday night.

”When we played Chiefs the pitch was superb and hopefully it will be in similar top condition for the final.” — Sapa

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