Ajax Cape Town coach Stanley Menzo had a critical decision to make ahead of the opening league game of the new PSL season against Golden Arrows at the Cape Town Stadium this evening (kick-off 8.15pm): Who will captain the team?
The situation arose because of the uncertainty around Travis Graham, who has been the skipper for the past few years. Graham is adamant it’s time to move on.
He wants to further his career elsewhere and is in negotiation with the club’s management to make his exit as smooth as possible. Because of this, Graham hasn’t been training with the team and he won’t be playing tonight.
As such, Menzo had to appoint a new captain - the general opinion being there were three candidates: defenders Roscoe Pietersen and Mosa Lebusa and goalkeeper Brandon Petersen - all of whom have worn the armband in Graham’s absence in the past.
On Friday Menzo announced that he had come to a decision and the player who will wear the armband is Lebusa.
“Mosa was the vice-captain last season and that means he is next in line,” said Menzo. “I asked him if he wanted to captain the team, and he said 'yes'. He is an experienced player and I think he has the personality to be a good leader, and the rest of the squad agrees.”
Central defender Pietersen would have been a strong candidate, but he is suspended for the opening three games of the new season, after picking up a red card in the final game of last season. (There was, at least, a silver lining for Pietersen, in that his unavailability for Ajax led to a call-up to the Bafana squad for today’s Chan match against Zambia).
Goalkeeper Petersen, a former head boy at Elsies River High School in his matric year, is also a good leader and is often the man taking charge of things in the dressing-room. He will do his bit to assist new captain Lebusa.
Petersen, who will again renew his rivalry with Jody February for the Ajax number one jersey, is looking forward to the new campaign and he is confident that Ajax will improve on last season.
“I have to say that this has been one of our better pre-seasons,” said the 22-year-old goalkeeper.
“Usually, when we stay in Cape Town, we only play friendlies against Cape NFD clubs. But this time we had a pre-season camp in Johannesburg and we were able to play friendlies against teams like SuperSport United, Maritzburg United and the University of Pretoria.
“So I think we are better prepared and I am really looking forward to the new season. We won most of our pre-season friendlies and we just have to make sure that we keep the momentum going.
"I have a good feeling about the team. I think the squad has done a great job and we will go well this season.
“In the past, we always started slowly and only started showing what we can do later in the season. I think this season we have to make sure that we get off to a good start, and kick it off with a bang.”
But Petersen stressed that Ajax are aware of the threat posed by Arrows. They certainly won’t disrespect the opposition. In fact, the Capetonians know that they will have to be at their best to get the better of the team from Durban.
“Arrows are a direct team,” said Petersen. “I watched them play Wits last week and it was clear that they like to play on the counter. They sit back and catch the opposition on the break, and it’s a style of play in which they are probably the best in the PSL.
“I expect they will come firing at us, but we just have to stick to our structure and play the football we know we can. We must not be sucked into playing the way they want to, we have to keep shape and dictate the pace of the game.”
Today: SuperSport United v Sundowns; Polokwane City v Baroka FC; AmaZulu v Free State Stars; Orlando Pirates v Chippa United; Ajax Cape Town v Golden Arrows (Cape Town Stadium, 8.15pm);
Sunday: Bloemfontein Celtic v Kaizer Chiefs; Platinum Stars v Maritzburg United