By Rodney Reiners

Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the venue for Wednesday's Rothmans Cup final replay between Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town, both sides are still hell-bent on lifting the trophy and pocketing the winners' purse of R1.1-million.

Saturday's final at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw.

The Premier Soccer League stipulated the same venue for the rematch and with no chance of another replay - if the sides are still level after extra-time on Wednesday night, the winner will be determined by a penalty shoot-out - there is no room to hide.

Neither side can afford to sit back and adopt negative tactics, they will have to throw people forward in search of goals.

Ajax looked the more inventive and purposeful in the first half on Saturday, but Pirates got stronger the longer the game progressed.

"The altitude seemed to affect some of our players in the second half, they were struggling to breathe, so we had to change our game plan," said Ajax coach Steve Haupt.

The Ajax squad arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday morning and returned to Cape Town after the final. On Wednesday they will once again touch down hours before kick off.

"Losing (Steven) Pienaar didn't help either, he is important to our tactics - hopefully he will be fit for the replay," added the coach.

Haupt disagrees with Pirates coach Gordon Igesund's assessment that the Buccaneers should have won Saturday's match with ease.

"We had some good chances and Shaun Permall, especially, missed three sitters just before full time - we don't plan to play it any differently tomorrow, I cannot see us making many changes," said Haupt.

Pienaar came in for some rough treatment and was replaced at the start of the second half by midfielder Gareth Ncaca.

Pienaar's absence appeared to affect Ajax's rhythm and they proceeded to give the ball away far too often.

It is because of that though that the creative Pienaar becomes crucial to Ajax's chances on Wednesday.

But Pienaar, still struggling with injury, is at best a doubtful starter.

"My ankle is swollen and painful," Pienaar said. "But it's a whole lot better than I felt on Saturday. There has been improvement, we'll leave it till just before kick-off to see whether I'll play."

With an injury to influential playmaker Dillon Sheppard, Haupt was forced to bring on 19-year-old Shaun Oliver in Saturday's match, but perhaps he erred in not selecting 16-year-old Sibusiso Mzizi in the starting line-up. When Mzizi came on in the second half, there was a lot more cohesion and organisation in the Ajax engine room.

It's a selection poser for Haupt to ponder.

In addition to that, Ajax committed the cardinal sin of deciding to defend their 1-0 lead, thereby allowing Pirates back into the match.

It is a point highlighted by Pienaar.

"We never really played according to plan," he said. "We made a huge mistake to sit on our lead and Pirates took advantage of the space we allowed them.

"But you learn from your mistakes and I am sure the guys won't be caught out again."

Igesund, on the other hand, has a foreign quota problem. He desperately wants to use Zimbabwean left-footer Innocent Chikoya down the left. Josep Ngake, a natural right-footer, played there on Saturday, but his attempts at getting the ball across with his left were woeful.

Chikoya is a brilliant crosser who adds width and flair to the Pirates approach.

League rules state a club can only use four foreigners at a time, but Igesund already has Nigerian goalkeeper Williams Okpara, the Mozambican defensive duo of Carlos Baute and Tomas Inguana, as well as Zambian sharp-shooter Dennis Lota in his starting line-up.

Dropping Baute, Inguana or Lota is unthinkable, leaving Igesund with a headache. If he wants to play Chikoya, he'll have to drop Okpara for Grant Johnson.

While Johnson, the former Manning Rangers custodian, is solid and reliable, Igesund has to take into consideration that Okpara has been magnificent in recent outings.

The Pirates coach though got it spot on when he called up Steve Lekoelea for Saturday's final. The talented midfielder has been in dispute with the club - mainly about money - over the last couple of months.

Lekoelea has consistently missed training sessions and Igesund refused to pick him until things had been sorted out.

The differences could not have been settled at a better time, and Igesund's gamble of playing the little footballer paid off when Lekoelea scored with a brilliant free kick in Saturday's final.

This is the last time Rothmans will be backing the event and both sides will surely want to make it a final to be remembered.


Orlando Pirates: Grant Johnson, Williams Okpara, Carlos Baute, Papi Khomane, Kamaal Sait, Tomas Inguana, Innocent Chikoya, Steve Lekoelea, Thabo Mngomeni, Jabu Mnguni, Brandon Silent, Warren Lewis, Dennis Lota, Josep Ngake, Shasha Moleko, Phumlani Mkhize, Benedict Vilakazi, Pollen Ndlanya, Jerry Sikhosana

Ajax Cape Town: Calvin Marlin, Gareth Ormshaw, Eddie Dinha, Andile Sixaba, Mxolisi Mchunu, Duran Francis, Jeremy Jansen, David Kannemeyer, Brendan Augustine, Hillary Makasa, Dillon Sheppard, Steven Pienaar, Shaun Potgieter, Dominic Isaacs, Sibusiso Mzizi, Gareth Ncaca, Carlo Scott, Rodrigo Gomes, Shaun Permall, Brett Evans, Shaun Oliver

Kick-off: 8pm

TV: SABC 2, delayed 10pm