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Wilfred Mugeyi will always be regarded as one of the finest strikers to grace South African football.
As a player, he was dynamic, quick and intelligent, and in front of goal, he was ruthless, clinical and composed. In simple terms, he was one hell of a player to have in your team.
Now coach of struggling Cape club Chippa United, Mugeyi is looking for a similar kind of player to fire the club off the bottom of the standings.
Chippa host title contenders Kaizer Chiefs tonight at Athlone Stadium desperately short of goals, and staring down the relegation barrel. The team’s 17 league goals in 20 matches tell the sorry tale.
Mugeyi has now turned to friend, and fellow Zimbabwean, Benjani Mwaruwari to try and be their knight in shiny boots, who can save Chippa from going right back down to the National First Division.
Mugeyi said last week that the 34-year-old former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Portsmouth striker will probably make his debut against Chiefs. It’s a massive risk, especially because Mugeyi didn’t think Benjani was fit enough even for a 10-minute substitute appearance in their loss at Bloemfontein Celtic last Saturday.
Ajax apparently had the chance to sign Benjani, but decided against it after he put in a rather sluggish performance in a reserve league game against Milano United. Some observers said it looked like “his legs were gone”.
Chippa and Mugeyi seem to think otherwise, and hopefully tonight, we will see for ourselves whether the former Zimbabwean international can still produce the goods on the big stage.
The stage doesn’t get any bigger for a bottom side than taking on the league leaders. But because the league leaders are Amakhosi, it raises the stakes even higher.
Benjani has, of course, delivered on the big stage in the past, the striker memorably scoring on his City debut against bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.
If it was the case that Benjani wasn’t fit enough to play against Celtic, nothing drastic would have changed in his fitness levels in the space of a few days. But the thought probably is that a half-fit Benjani could still be a factor against a Chiefs team who have traditionally been terrible in the match leading up to a Soweto derby against fierce rivals Orlando Pirates.
The good omen for Chippa is that over the last two seasons, Chiefs have lost to both Vasco da Gama and Santos in the match prior to the derby. However, both Cape sides were then relegated at the end of those respective seasons ...
Meanwhile, Ajax Cape Town coach Jan Versleijen is looking to get the balance right between aggression and flair ahead of his team’s trip to Pretoria University, the rookies who beat them 5-1 at home earlier this season.
Ajax are yet to taste victory under Versleijen since the Dutchman took over at the start of the year. The Urban Warriors have drawn two home matches and lost an away match in the league so far, while they were also dumped out of the Nedbank Cup at Cape Town Stadium.
Ajax’s main problem this season has been their defensive work, where they have lacked that intensity, grit and organisation.
Versleijen is trying to rectify this problem, and raise their level of fight and controlled aggression, but without sacrificing their traditional attacking strengths.
“My aim as coach is to raise the intensity and the standard and their efforts. But it should also not be something where they lose their creativity, lose their own personality,” the coach said. “We should not take away our own style, that always should be the basic. The key is just to find the right balance, and raise them to a level where they are actually ready to play those finals.” - Cape Times