CAPE TOWN - When Ajax Cape Town coach Muhsin Ertugral flashes a broad smile, it’s as if all is well with the world. It’s just the way he is - when he’s angry, you’ll know it; and when he’s happy, you can see it written all over his face. The 58-year-old Turk is an emotional man. He wears his heart on his sleeve and that makes him all the more endearing. When engaging him, there is no façade; he is what you see.
Ajax are set to host Orlando Pirates in a PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night (kick-off 7.30pm) - and, as usual, there was no vacillation from Ertugral when asked about his new signing Siyanda Zwane. His face lit up and he brandished that famous wide grin. There was no doubt about Ertugral’s opinion of Zwane, and what he expected the new man to bring to the team.
Zwane, a 32-year-old left-footer, arrived at Ajax from Mamelodi Sundowns this week, but it was at Golden Arrows where he first made his name as a marauding wingback. At Arrows, he was coached by Ertugral, and the Turk has never lost his admiration for Zwane as a player, which is why he urged his bosses to make the deal.
“Zwane is a player I’ve always admired,” said Ertugral. “He does the fundamentals right and always does the right things. He is a workaholic, and he can play in the two systems we use at Ajax.”
When Ertugral talks about two systems, he is referring to the fluid manner in which the Cape side currently operates, in that the 3-5-2 is able to quickly change to a 5-3-2. With Zwane just as capable in defence as in attack, he will be a valuable asset.
“When Ajax were born as a club, they impressed everybody with their wing play,” added Ertugral. “It is a good system because if you don’t have width, you cannot stretch the opponents. In other words, the outside gives you the inside. But, to do this, you must have clever players on the outside to give you that dimension.”
For Ertugral, that intelligent player, that missing link at Ajax, is Zwane.
With Ertugral having brought in Ivory Coast striker Yannick Zakri (also from Sundowns), he is gradually changing the look and feel of the Ajax team. He remains confident that relegation won’t be an issue - there are enough games for him to steer the Capetonians clear of danger. His main issue, though, is still to get his philosophy through to everybody in the squad.
“Football is like an orchestra,” said Ertugral. “Everybody knows the notes, but, as a coach, you have to fine-tune things. So it becomes about the synergy, the organisational patterns and the working as a team.
“At the moment, it’s all about finding the elements we are doing wrong, and then putting them right. It’s about repetition on the training ground, about regularly talking to the players and making sure they hear certain words all the time. Repetition
“It’s about developing something we can go forward and score goals, and about finding the pockets and windows where we can take advantage of the opposition. Of course, though, we all know that up front is a common problem in South Africa.
“It is also about defensive patterns. I was very disappointed we have lost two games already this month when conceding from corners. That is an organisational matter, which is something we work on all the time. But we will keep working on it. I am still confident things are getting better, and we are on the right track.”
Ertugral, though warned that, against Pirates, his team will have to be positive.
“You cannot sit back against Pirates because they will wallop you,” said the Ajax coach. “We will have to find ways to counter them, and we have to attack. We know how Pirates operate and they don’t lose the ball easily - but, as with any offensive team, they have their weaknesses.”