Amakhosi-Ajax battle tops weekend action

Newlands is the place to be on Sunday afternoon.

Ajax Cape Town's fixture against Kaizer Chiefs (kick-off 3.30pm) never fails to capture the imagination - and this time should be no different.

Adding spice to the occasion, both teams are in hot form at the moment.

Ajax go into the match on the back of two magnificent results, a 2-1 victory over Supersport United in Pretoria and a polished 1-0 win over former champions Sundowns at Newlands in midweek.

Chiefs, under caretaker-coaches Ace Khuse and Doctor Khumalo, are unbeaten in their last nine league games, picking up 19 points from a possible 27, scoring 13 goals and conceding only three.

The stage is set for an epic encounter.

Ajax chief executive John Comitis said he was expecting a bumper crowd of around 30 000.

"I was elated by our performance against Sundowns," Comitis said. "Now the guys need to produce it more consistently.

"It should be a great game. No predictions, anything can happen. Both teams are playing well and it will probably come down to whoever performs better on the day.

For Amakhosi, Khuse and Khumalo have certainly steadied the ship since the departure of Muhsin Ertugral (now the coach of Santos). The big question, of course, is just what was wrong with Chiefs during that rocky period last year when things simply never went their way.

The answer, perhaps, lies in Khuse's suggestion that "the confidence is high and the players are no longer scared of making mistakes.

"Whenever a Chiefs team goes onto the pitch these days, they have the freedom to express their skills and play their style."

Hidden within that statement is the conclusion that Ertugral stifled the natural flair of Chiefs' players. And the fact that many of them were afraid of doing their own thing for fear of being humiliated by their volatile former coach.

Khuse and Khumalo, both legends as players in the gold and black jersey, have brought back Amakhosi's traditional style of play - an approach that favours expression and natural instinct within the tactical discipline of the team.

If there's one thing this duo is aware of, it's pressure. Whether playing or coaching at Chiefs, the pressure is always on. Winning and success is woven into the fabric of this club and anyone who does not produce finds himself on the scrapheap.

It is a club that sets high standards and demands the best out of coaches and players.

With defender Shane Poggenpoel suspended after being sent off against Sundowns on Wednesday, elegant Ghanaian defender Tony Baffoe returns to the Ajax starting line-up after knee surgery.

Forwards Bradley August and Brent Carelse are back from two-match bans and the duo create more options for coach Gordon Igesund.

Dillon Sheppard and Junaid Hartley were brilliant against Sundowns in midweek and Igesund will be looking for another big performance from the two schemers.

  • Santos are in action on Friday when they play Manning Rangers at Chatsworth in Durban.

    The match is the debut for new Santos head coach Ertugral and his assistant, Farouk Khan. Both are former Kaizer Chiefs coaches.

    Boebie Solomons, who was the caretaker-coach for the last few months, now assumes the role of team manager.

  • Hellenic are in action on Sunday when they are away to Moroka Swallows at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg.

    Former Bafana midfielder Thabo Mngomeni is still out injured, while coach Neven Payne has promised to reshuffle the team this weekend.

    The big loser could be Namibian central defender George Hummel who has been off-form for quite a while now. Payne is set to move captain Ricardo Katza from leftback to central defence and bring in the promising Aubrey Meintjies to patrol the left flank.

    Another likely addition is the inclusion of midfielder Vuyo Mere, available again after doing duty for the South African national under-20 side.

    Where to buy your Ajax-Chiefs ticket on Friday:

    Newlands Stadium, Boundary Rd (10am-3pm)

    Fruit and Veg, Main Road, Woodstock

    Ajax CT head office, Parow (8am-4.30pm)

    Steers, Montague Gardens

    Steers, Strand Street, Cape Town

    Steers, Main Road Rondebosch

    Steers, Westgate Mall, Mitchell's Plain

    Also from Coca-Cola trucks at the following taxi ranks: Kuwait, Khayelitsha Site C, Nyanga and Langa

    Ticket prices: Grandstand R25, Railway Stand R15, children (up to 16 years) R5


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