CAPE TOWN - The next two weeks are going to be critical for Ajax Cape Town. The fixtures will come thick and fast, and how they perform will determine whether the Cape side produces a turnaround or plunges into a crisis.
Ajax coach Stanley Menzo would have welcomed the recent international break, especially to work on the squad’s mental toughness, and he will be expecting improvement when they resume competitive PSL action on Saturday night. The Capetonians host AmaZulu at Athlone Stadium (8.15pm kickoff) - and, considering their stuttering season so far, nothing less than a win will suffice.
As it stands, a glance at the PSL standings doesn’t make for good reading. Ajax are precariously situated in the bottom three, alongside Platinum Stars and defending champions Wits, each on a measly eight points. Tomorrow’s opposition, AmaZulu, have shown some promising form under coach Cavin Johnson, and are currently in a respectable ninth position, with 13 points.
Johnson, of course, is a former Ajax youth coach, chief scout and head coach. He certainly knows how the Cape club operates - and, no doubt, he’ll have a plan to combat whatever is thrown at his team.
If anything, Saturday's fixture is an opportunity for Cape football followers to salute the durability of AmaZulu striker Siyabonga Nomvethe. The veteran turns 40 on December 2 and is still going strong, and scoring goals. Last month he scored against Mamelodi Sundowns to become the PSL’s leading all-time marksman with 111 goals, surpassing the previous record of 110 set up by former Sundowns ace Daniel Mudau.
Starting out at African Wanderers back in 1997, Nomvethe went on to play for Kaizer Chiefs, Udinese, Salernitana and Empoli in Italy, Djurgardens in Sweden, Orlando Pirates, Aalborg in Denmark, Moroka Swallows and now AmaZulu.
The Durban side, in fact, also have another veteran that Ajax need to monitor closely tomorrow - and it’s a player they know all too well: Mabhuti Khenyeza. The much-travelled 35-year-old has had spells at Golden Arrows, Chiefs, Sundowns, SuperSport United and Mpumalanga Black Aces, but will always be remembered for the impact he made, and the goals he netted, during two stints at Ajax.
But, in as much as AmaZulu have the experience and nous of Nomvethe and Khenyeza to call on, Johnson has always been known as a coach who offers opportunities to emerging young footballers. It’s no different at AmaZulu. On Wednesday, the Durban team played to a goalless draw with Chiefs, a match they should really have won, especially as they missed a penalty as well.
And Johnson said afterwards: “I’m happy with the team’s performance. We’re building and we can see it’s going somewhere. There was a lot of effort from the youngsters, some of whom have not played in the PSL before.”
So Ajax can certainly expect a difficult encounter against an AmaZulu team comprised of youth and experience.