CAPE TOWN – Yannick Zakri has been in hot form since arriving at Ajax Cape Town in January this year. The 27-year-old striker from the Ivory Coast is on loan to the Cape club from Mamelodi Sundowns - and, based on the player’s fantastic contribution in recent weeks, he is going to be crucial in the last three games of the season.
As things stand on the PSL log, bottom-placed Platinum Stars are on 21 points, followed by Ajax on 28, SuperSport United 29, Polokwane City 30 and Golden Arrows on 31 points. It’s abundantly clear that the race for PSL safety will go all the way to the last day of the campaign.
Ajax’s last three fixtures are Baroka FC (home), Mamelodi Sundowns (away) and Kaizer Chiefs (home), with head coach Muhsin Ertugral making no secret of the fact that he believes his team needs to win two out of the three to avoid relegation or playoff issues.
What Ertugral has done is to dispense with any notion of beautiful football. Instead he has been more practical and introduced a counter-attack style of play in order to minimise risk and thereby increase the team’s chances of winning. They’ve picked up four points in the last two games - a win over Wits and a draw with Chippa United - so his approach obviously has merit.
But, in playing this way, the team needs a quick and clever attacker - and, in Zakri, the Urban Warriors have the ideal striker to capitalise when they hit teams on the break.
Even last weekend, Ertugral believes that, especially in the second half, they should, in fact, have beaten Chippa because they were all over the opposition.
“Yannick (Zakri) was always in position to score, ready to connect, but it didn’t go our way,” said Ertugral.
As for Zakri, he’s simply loving it in the Mother City. He struggled for game time at Sundowns, but he’s revelling in the opportunity at Ajax. More than that, as the team’s go-to man, he’s handling the responsibility with aplomb - and, as a result, he’s plundered four goals in seven appearances for the Capetonians.
Needless to say, his goals have been vital. While you would think the Ivorian would be satisfied with his form - and goals - the opposite is closer to the truth.
“Nah, I’m not happy,” said Zakri. “I’m looking for more - I want to score more goals. If I score more, then it helps the team, so that is what I am looking to do.”
Right from the start, Zakri has proven to be a breath of fresh air for Ajax. He has put himself about with pace and panache, and his passion for the game has no doubt rubbed off on the rest of the squad. Whenever the Ivorian is in possession of the ball, there’s always the feeling that something could happen - and, invariably, since he came to Ajax, it does.
But, as the season draws to a close, Zakri knows his job is not done. He is really enjoying his loan stay at Ajax and the best way to repay the Cape side is to keep scoring goals - because, ultimately, it will be his goals that could be Ajax’s saving grace.
Meanwhile, Mazola Molefe reports that Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has expressed his delight at seeing striker Kermit Erasmus finally secure a contract with Swedish club AFC Eskilstuna late last month after French side Rennes released him a few weeks earlier.
The former Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United forward had not played a single match for Rennes this season before he was eventually let go, and Baxter, who had also dropped him from the national team set-up for this reason, said it was a relief to see him trying to get his career back on track, albeit in the Swedish second division.
“I am just happy that Kermit is back playing,” said the Bafana coach, who has had stints in Sweden before. “I am glad that Kermit has got a platform to sort of resurrect his career because he must have been despairing at some point.”
Baxter said he won’t be rushing to consider Erasmus for national team duty in any of the upcoming friendly matches - if Safa can organise some.
“I think we need to give him a bit of time, let him get kicking off. Let him play, let him get a few games under his belt. Don’t bring him back in when he is not ready. Let him get his head in order first. But I am just glad he is back playing,” Baxter said.