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Preview: Derby fever hits Cape Town

Posted: 29 September 2017 Time: 15:00

It’s the newest derby to hit the Absa Premiership, but one that has taken the Cape by storm this week as rivals Ajax Cape Town and Cape Town City prepare to square off on Saturday afternoon.

There’s been much hype off the field, with league sponsors Absa getting on board to build the fanfare around the game, and club captains, coaches and chairmen receiving much media attention in the lead up to Saturday afternoon.

But come 15h00 at Cape Town Stadium, the talking will have to be done on the pitch, with more than just Mother City bragging rights on offer.

The acrimonious yesteryear boardroom split between now opposing club bosses John Comitis and Ari Efstathiou fuels the burning desire for the two teams to get one up over each other, with the blue half of Cape Town still basking in their two victories last season, and keen to continue upstaging the older club on the block. Efstathiou will not take a third defeat in a row to his nemesis very well.

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On the bench, it’s a showdown between two very different personalities. Ajax have Stanley Menzo in charge, a thoughtful and tactically-astute disciplinarian, schooled in Amsterdam, who knows he’s under pressure to deliver: a  10th-place league finish last season, followed up with an inconsistent start this term, can quickly be forgotten with a three-pointer over City.

The Citizens, meanwhile, continued their impressive debut season in the PSL with five consecutive victories at the start of the new campaign under new coach Benni McCarthy. In McCarthy, City boast an iconic legend of South African football, a humorous, passionate coach who wants his team to play with the ball. He paints a relaxed and “chilled” figure, often joining his squad in training sessions, joking with the squad, and has a former teammate Robyn Johannes as his captain. It’s a first derby for the newbie coach, and being a Capetonian himself, he no doubt wants a memorable first.

A Bongolethu Jayiya goal separated the two sides in the first derby in September last year, before Aubrey Ngoma’s first-half strike and an Erwin Isaacs own goal in February handed the Citizens a 2-0 win.

Heading into this encounter, City look to be the favourites once more, yet have waned somewhat following their rip-roaring start to the season, being brought down to earth with consecutive losses to Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, before a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Polokwane City last week (albeit after very questionable refereeing decisions).

A win would temporarily take the Cape club to joint-top of the Absa Premiership standings, another motivating factor for Saturday.

Ajax, meanwhile, have only kept one clean sheet this season, and have recorded just one victory in their five league games so far, letting their lead slip twice in a 2-2 draw to high-flyers Baroka FC last time out. Currently sitting 12th on the log, maximum points are much-needed at Ikamva to get the Urban Warriors’ season back on track.

Topscorer Prince Nxumalo missed the draw against Baroka with a groin strain, and faces a race against time to be match ready for Saturday, with defender Roscoe Pietersen also ruled out through injury, leaving returnee Mario Booysen and fellow recruit Isaac Nhlapo to marshal the defence.

They’ll have their work cut out with Lehlohonolo Majoro finding his scoring touch of late, while Ayanda Patosi and Lyle Lakay – who already has three assists to his name – are set to provide the creativity and spark from the centre of the park. They’ll have to first get through the ever-impressing Tercious Malepe, who seems to be thriving in his new defensive central midfield position while on loan from Orlando Pirates.

The injured Roland Putsche will be missed in the centre of the park for City, while it remains to be seen if the experienced Shu-Aib Walters will reclaim the gloves, or if McCarthy will opt for Sage Stephens, who started the last game against Rise and Shine, and was also preferred in the clash against Chiefs.

But as we know, form and history all goes out the window in a derby, with this edition no different, providing a highly-anticipated opportunity for Cape football to take centre stage this weekend.

Will Cape Town be painted red or blue come Saturday evening?

Article by: Fabio De Dominicis

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