Ajax Cape Town tackle Baroka FC in their final PSL match of the season with a top-eight position on the line, but they will have to do so without influential central defender Rivaldo Coetzee.
The two sides meet at the Cape Town Stadium this afternoon (3pm kickoff).
Coetzee was this week named in the Bafana Bafana squad and last week he won the Cape side’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards.
His absence today because of a hamstring injury is not only a big blow for Ajax, but it also robs local fans of the opportunity to bid farewell to the talented 20-year-old.
It’s no secret that big-spending Mamelodi Sundowns are in negotiation with Ajax for the services of the player, while there is also the possibility that he could move overseas. One thing is sure, though, it’s unlikely that Coetzee will be seen in the colours of Ajax next season.
But the Capetonians can’t concern themselves too much about the loss of one player. There is just too much at stake today. After finally turning around a dreadful year in the past few weeks, Ajax have a chance to finish in the top eight.
As it stands currently, Maritzburg United are seventh with 37 points, followed by Ajax 36, Golden Arrows 35, Platinum Stars 34 and Orlando Pirates 33.
Victory is needed – and if it means relegating Baroka in the process, then, says Ajax coach Stanley Menzo, so be it.
Baroka are last on the PSL log with 25 points, with the other clubs in danger being Highlands (26 points), Free State Stars and Chippa United (both 27) and Bloemfontein Celtic (28).
The team that finishes at the bottom is relegated; the club that ends second-last joins the two First Divisions teams (Stellenbosch FC and Black Leopards) in the promotion playoffs.
“It isn’t nice if we are to relegate Baroka, but we have to focus on ourselves,” said Menzo. “We expect them to fight, they have a lot of runners and they don’t give up. They only stop when the last whistle goes. They are very direct and always go for the second ball.
“We have to play our game. If we play their way, we will lose. For us, there is still a lot to play for, a big 90 minutes is needed, as we aim to finish in the top eight.”
Menzo took over as coach in October last year and, while he has experienced the ups and downs of the sport, he is nevertheless happy with his contribution.
“It’s not nice for the club when you are at the wrong end of the standings,” he said. “Some parts of the season were enjoyable, but you can’t smile when things don’t go right. At least we finished well. We can still improve a lot more.”
Final PSL Games (all 3pm kickoffs)
Ajax Cape Town v Baroka FC; Polokwane City v Cape Town City; Kaizer Chiefs v Bidvest Wits; SuperSport United v Platinum Stars; Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates; Free State Stars v Chippa United; Maritzburg Utd v Bloemfontein Celtic; Highlands Park v Mamelodi Sundowns.