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September 30, 2009

Battered warriors prepare to soldier on

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Photo courtesy Sarah aka Ag 2006

As the last party bus from the Loeries rolls out of the Mother City, local football fans must be wondering if they’re all suffering from a collective hangover.

With a spate of injuries, a couple of suspensions and five players in Egypt at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Cape Town-based ABSA Premiership side Ajax Cape Town prepare to take on Platinum Stars tonight in Rustenburg with just 15 fit and able players – and if that’s not enough, Ajax then take on the struggling giants Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday, October 3 at Newlands.

Cape Town’s Urban Warriors celebrated the Loeries in their own way, coming from behind to beat the glamour boys of South African football, Mamelodi Sundowns, 2-1 at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday, September 26, but four days later the hangover has hit.

Injuries to the highly talented Clifford Ngobeni, Stanton Lewis, Sean Roberts, Eduardo Ferreira and Brett Evans, coupled with the absence through international duty of Tawfeeg Salie, Sameegh Doutie, Thulani Serero, George Maluleka and Thulani Hlatshwayo, who are at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, mean that Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral may have to dust off his boots and get ready for action this evening.

The team were further weakened during their win over Sundowns when midfielders Nhlanhla Shabalala and Franklin Cale received their third yellow cards of the season, automatically ruling them out of tonight’s game. It’s enough to have anyone reaching for the headache tablets and energy drinks, but Ertugral remains upbeat.

“It is a huge blow for us, but I believe in the players that we have in the team,” said Ertugral in an interview with Kickoff.com after Monday’s early training session. “They will go out there and do a good job for the club.”

Ajax are six points behind log leaders Orlando Pirates, while Platinum Stars are flirting with the relegation zone with just six points after eight games. Ertugral is wary of reading too much into Stars’ early form, though.

“I rate Stars coach Steve Komphela highly,” Ertugral told SuperSport’s website. “Just look what he achieved with Free State Stars last season [the unfancied side finished fourth]. Sure, Platinum Stars are battling at the moment, but Komphela and his side are too good not to come right and I believe they will sooner, rather than later. I have studied DVDs of Stars and they are a far better side than their position in the league at present suggests.”

The game will be shown live on SuperSport 4 from 19h00 tonight.

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