'Cup bragging rights more important than money'

The prestige of winning the MTN 8 final is more important to both cup finalists Ajax Cape Town and Golden Arrows than the record R8-million winner-takes-all cheque.

That was the view of Arrows coach Manqoba Mngqithi and Urban Warriors caretaker coach Jan Pruijn.

Speaking ahead of Saturday night’s (8.15pm) final at the Orlando Stadium, they both agreed the prestige and honour of winning a major trophy would be the driving force behind their teams.

“For me and my players, winning the cup is far more important than the R8-million prize money,” Mngqithi said.

“The prize money is great but at the end of the day players and coaches want to win cups. Being in a cup final is motivation in itself.”

Pruijn, who has temporarily taken charge of Ajax after Muhsin Ertugral left to coach in his homeland Turkey two weeks ago, also said the trophy was his side’s top priority.

“I would love to have this on my coaching CV. I think it is even more important for the players who take the field on Saturday and see the trophy at the side of the field before they kick-off,” Pruijn said.

“The players will not be thinking about money.
They want the glory of winning a major cup, so while the money is fantastic, being a cup winner is what they want.”

Mngqithi, who is one of the up-and-coming young coaches that are surfacing in the PSL, said this final is one of three he has targeted this season.

“I have a plan that I showed management before the start of the season,” he said.

“The first step was to reach this final and get into one or two more finals this season and we are on track.”

Mngqithi admitted his side were the underdogs as it will be Arrows’ first appearance in a cup final, but he added that a lack of experience would not be a major factor against his side.

“There has to be a first time for every side and this is ours and we aim to make the most of it,” he said.

“Sure we are slight underdogs but we will rise to the occasion.”

Pruijn said two players, captain Brett Evans and midfielder Nhlanhla Shabalala, were nursing injuries and both were doubtful. Veteran goalkeeper Hans Vonk will captain the side should Evans fail a fitness test.

“Hans will play a key role for Ajax, whether he is captain or not,” Pruijn said.

“His experience in the defence will be invaluable to all the players.”

Striker Diyo Sibisi, who is suspended, will be missing, along with injured Stanton Lewis, Granwald Scott and Brazilian defender Eduardo Ferreira.

“But.” said the Ajax caretaker coach, “we have a squad of top class players and those who come in will more than make the most of
this brilliant opportunity.”

Key players for Arrows are striker Richard Henyekane and midfielder Ntlantla Zothwane who are able to run at pace against defences.

For Ajax their two wingers Franklyn Cale and Sameehg Doutie will be firing the crosses for Dipsy Selolowane, while Clifford Ngobeni will want to use this final to show his enormous potential from midfield.

Both coaches were concerned about the state of the Orlando Stadium pitch that has deteriorated since Ajax and Kaizer Chiefs drew 3-3 there in an epic semifinal second leg in August.

“That 3-3 draw was the best game I have seen and it was played on a superb pitch,” Pruijn said.

“I am worried about the poor condition of the field at present, but there is nothing we can do and will not use it as an excuse.”

Manqoba also admitted he had been worried about the pitch. “I was concerned when I saw the bad state of the pitch,” he said.

“Hopefully the organisers will have done something to improve it as the game needs a good pitch for the players to perform at their best.”—Sapa

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