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Cape Town – Muhsin Ertugral’s premature exit as coach of Ajax Cape Town has caused a ripple effect, with two players also looking to leave the club this week.
Bafana Bafana defenders Thulani Hlatshwayo and Thato Mokeke have each signed pre-contracts with Wits and SuperSport United respectively and are set to leave the Cape side in June on free transfers.
However, after Ertugral quit on Thursday, both players are looking to push their respective deals through before the January transfer window closes at the end of this week.
Right back Hlatshwayo was going to see out his contract and stay until the end of the season out of respect for Ertugral, who brought him to the club during his second stint at the Urban Warriors.
Mokeke, who made his Bafana debut during the African Nations Championship (Chan), is looking for more gametime after falling behind the in-form Aidan Jenniker in the left-back pecking order.
Both players on Sunday travelled with the team to face Orlando Pirates and are expected to start on Monday at Orlando Stadium under interim coach Ian Taylor.
But this match could have a lot more riding on it for Pirates coach Roger de Sa, who needed a police escort after his last match in charge. Despite steering the Bucs to the final of the Champions League, De Sa is apparently treading on thin ice.
And who is waiting in the wings? It seems that Ertugral is being lined up for the job after quitting Ajax.
Meanwhile, the Urban Warriors will go into the match against the Buccaneers without their best player during the first half of the season, Abbubaker Mobara, as the midfielder is suffering from a stiff Achilles. His central midfield partner Lance Davids is also struggling from a groin strain.
Taylor may decide to give defender Nazeer Allie his first start of the campaign off the bench to add some experience on the field in what is expected to be an intense fixture.
Taylor, who was in charge of Ajax while Ertugral was in Turkey on compassionate leave at the start of the year, is confident that he and his team will hit the ground running when they take to the field tonight.
“The three weeks we had was almost like a pre-season and there were a lot of positives coming out of that. We played some good opposition, and did well. But we know there are still a lot of things to work on,” Taylor said.
“It’s going to be a tough second round because we have nine away games. Then we have seven home games, and those home games are against teams who are going to fight for points as well.”
The former Federation Professional League player said he is not going to change much from what helped Ajax jump to eighth spot after a tough start, but he might just surprise a few folks with his team selection going forward.
“There is a clear focus in the changeroom, and I’m sure the players will pick it up again,” he said. “Muhsin laid a good foundation at the beginning of the season, so we can’t steer too far away from what he has done here. It’s important for us to pick it up and build.
“We have got a young and dynamic squad and I’m pretty confident that we can do the club proud. There are a couple of youngsters that I do like for certain reasons, but I think we can’t throw too many youngsters in at once. I think we should try and find that balance. Luckily I have had five games, and I have played around with a few combinations.”
Monday: Orlando Pirates v Ajax Cape Town (Orlando Stadium, 7.30pm).
Tuesday: SuperSport United v AmaZulu (Lucas Moripe Stadium, 7.30pm).
Friday: Moroka Swallows v Kaizer Chiefs (Dobsonville Stadium, 8pm), SuperSport United v University of Pretoria (Lucas Moripe Stadium, 8pm).
Sunday: Free State Stars v Bloemfontein Celtic (Goble Park, 3.30pm).