CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town know what is required ahead of their PSL clash with Maritzburg United at Cape Town Stadium tonight (8pm kickoff).
A win under new coach Muhsin Ertugral would move the Urban Warriors away from the relegation zone, while defeat would be asking for trouble.
A negative outcome at home against an opponent also struggling would hurt in more ways than one; it would dent the players’ self-confidence, something that has been down for a long time due to their run of results. That record makes for sad reading with just three wins from their 14 encounters.
The 1-0 victory over Chippa United on December 9 ended a four-game winless run for Ajax.
But expect a change in fortunes now that Ertugral is back at the helm, according to centre-back Roscoe Pietersen.
“The boys are thriving under Muhsin,” said Pietersen. “You can feel it, the vibe, it’s different.
“For sure a different approach in the way we are playing now has buried past efforts and you can see the players lapping up training with vigour and total commitment. We badly want to win for ourselves and our fans and I can promise them we are aiming to start the year with a bang and begin building an innings of substance that would ease our plight.
“The coach has us thinking more about our roles and he is someone who expects 100 percent effort, and we are listening and learning all the time.
“He has a way of playing and we welcome his attacking approach. Maybe us being uncertain and too keen to fall back when losing the ball has got us into our current predicament, but that’s no longer part of our DNA as you will see against Maritzburg.”
Pietersen is one of Ertugral’s go-to men in defence.
“Roscoe at 28 knows what’s expected of him,” said the coach. “He’s a worker and never shies from meeting threats head-on. And he communicates well with players around him and encourages them, so I’m more than happy with his contribution.”
Pietersen is in his second season with the Parow-based club after moving from Vasco da Gama. He has enjoyed stints at SuperSport United and AmaZulu, but is happy to be back home now.
“I’m a Cape Town bloke from Strandfontein who grew up loving the game,” Pietersen said. “Now here I am at a great club that made me (feel) welcome from the day I arrived. I am going to give everything to the cause and soon you will see us flying high again.
“Tonight is the starting point.”
Ertugral, 58, sees this January as one that might have come too soon, as he would have liked an extra month to prepare his squad.
“But that is not the case,” Ertugral added. “We have six games to navigate this month, a heavy schedule for all concerned.
“So we take it one game at a time and learn on the job, checking for strengths and weaknesses as a collective and correcting along the way. If we can net a healthy points haul from it all I would be satisfied, but one fixture at a time.
“One can’t build an orchestra overnight, it takes time to get the right players in place (and) able to be in tune with one another. A few games in and we’ll see things falling into place nicely.”
As for Cape Town City, they are away to relegation-threatened Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium tomorrow (8.15pm kickoff).
Mike de Bruyn