Roscoe Pietersen will be vital for Ajax as thye look to avoid relegation. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN Ajax Cape Town’s fantastic fightback in recent weeks in a bid to secure the club’s Absa Premiership status hasn’t just been down to the players on the field, the contribution from the bench has been just as crucial.

The Cape side have picked up seven points in their last three games to give themselves a real shot at avoiding finishing in the play-off spot and having to negotiate a tricky campaign against two hungry First Division clubs desperate for promotion.

With Platinum Stars already relegated, Ajax are currently in the play-off spot  in 15th position on the 16-team log  but it’s still very tight at the bottom with two games to go to the end of the season.

As it stands, the difference between Chippa United in seventh and Ajax in 15th is a mere four points and as anybody will tell you, in this unpredictable game of football anything is possible.

Ajax are in Atteridgeville today to tackle title-chasing Mamelodi Sundowns at the Lucas Moripe Stadium (kick-off 3pm) and despite having the worst away form in the PSL, they are determined to maintain their momentum.

There is a steely belief in the squad and a quiet confidence that they can put one over the log leaders today.

Sundowns need just three points to win the title, so they’ll come out firing. While the Capetonians admit that coming up against Sundowns will be tough, they certainly won’t be lacking in motivation.

“Sundowns are one of the biggest clubs in Africa, and they are probably going to win the title in the PSL, so they are the best in South Africa too,” said Roscoe Pietersen.

“So, for us, that’s good for self-motivation because, as players, we want to do our best against the best. Sundowns are a great team and they will be looking to win all their games.

“But, as I say, there is no need for motivation  the only motivation we need is that we will be playing against the best in the PSL.”

Pietersen, who has had stints at Chippa United, SuperSport United and AmaZulu, has fallen down the pecking order at Ajax.

With coach Muhsin Ertugral changing the team’s formation for the relegation/play-off dog-fight a few weeks ago (playing three at the back), defender Pietersen has had to be content with a place on the bench.

But it hasn’t deterred him in any way  because the entire squad has always been right behind each other, irrespective of who is selected.

After Tuesday’s last-gasp 1-0 win over Baroka FC at the Athlone Stadium, Pietersen gave some insight into the drama and emotion behind the scenes  and the wonderfully supportive atmosphere that reigns in the Ajax squad.

“It was really overwhelming (the Baroka win),” said Pietersen. “We needed that result badly. And, being on the bench, you can feel the emotion - the stress of the coach, the stress of the players on the field and those on the bench. The emotion, you can just feel it all.

“It’s also important to remember the part that we play on the bench. For example, Sirgio Kammies went on as a substitute and he missed a chance shortly afterwards. But, from the bench, we kept on encouraging him, telling him to keep going. He then produced two brilliant balls from which we should have scored  and he started the move that led to Mosa’s (Lebusa) winning goal. The feeling throughout the entire squad was just crazy... there are no words to describe how we felt after the win over Baroka.”

With two games to go  Sundowns today and Kaizer Chiefs on May 12 - Ajax are fully aware of what they need to do.

“If you look at how we played against Wits recently, we weren’t at our best,” said Pietersen.

“But we had to grind out the result  and I told the guys afterwards that such a result  1-0 over Wits  in our situation, is better than a victory over Chiefs or Pirates.

“It means more and it shows the character of the team. We’ve grown stronger with each game  and now we just have to keep progressing and keep showing the same character in the last two games.

“The morale is high, the squad is in a good space, and we will treat the next two fixtures like two cup finals.”


Weekend Argus

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