CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town coach Muhsin Ertugral has huge respect for Bidvest Wits and their coach, Gavin Hunt, but there’s a job to be done on Wednesday- and all friendly emotions will be on hold until after the 90 minutes have been completed.
The two sides meet in a PSL fixture at the Athlone Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm) - and, because of Ajax’s precarious log position, only victory will suffice.
In fact, the Cape club’s parlous situation is probably exacerbated by the fact that they have to tackle Wits on Wednesday. With no margin for error in their bid for PSL safety, the Cape side has to contend with an in-form Wits side.
While the defending champions got off to a very poor start, in recent weeks they have turned things around rather spectacularly. And, now, Ajax have the unenviable task of having to negotiate a victory against such top-class opponents.
Ertugral is certainly aware of the job his team faces, but he is, nevertheless, upbeat and confident that, despite the quality of the opposition, they can pull it off.
“Against Wits, we have to get a positive result and fight to win,” said Ertugral. “We know Wits, we know how they play. It won’t be a pretty game, but that’s the way it has to be - we need the result.
“Wits have a quality coach (Gavin Hunt). He is a personal friend of mine and I have to say that, while they were struggling early on, the champions from the previous season can’t be bad. They didn’t have a good start, but you can see from the players’ body language that they are back.”
For Ertugral, the big problem over the last few months has been the constant stop-start of the PSL. Because of it, he just hasn’t been able to get his team to perform with any measure of consistency.
“Football is about dynamism, it’s an ongoing process and it’s about momentum, which is why the breaks haven’t been that good for us,” said the Turkish coach, who is in his fourth spell at the helm of Ajax. “It has been a real challenge and it’s something the league needs to look at if it wants to improve football in South Africa.”
Ajax are second-from-bottom on the PSL standings and Ertugral believes it’s the pressure created by their log position that has affected his team rather badly.
“The players have worked hard and, if I look at the last defeat against AmaZulu, we were unlucky,” he said. “We had the game, but when you are in our situation then the team becomes afraid of losing - and that negativity has fallen on us.
"We had great chances to win - a (Yannick) Zakri header, Grant (Margeman) dribbled around the keeper and still missed and (Tashreeq) Morris also had a good opportunity I can assure you that when there’s no pressure then those goals go in. But in our situation, this is what happens.
“The major challenge at the moment is also that we are conceding bad goals. This is all about nerves because of our situation.”
While this may be so, Ertugral knows that such defensive mistakes have to be avoided; make an error against Wits and Ajax will be punished. And, in the same breath, if the Capetonians are to emerge victorious against the Clever Boys, then the goals will have to go in - hard-luck stories mean nothing.
PSL fixtures: Wednesday - SuperSport United vs Orlando Pirates, Ajax Cape Town v Bidvest Wits