Ajax match could hinge on tall strikers

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The two sides meet at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Saturday evening (kick-off 8.15pm) - and, with Ajax’s Nathan Paulse and Platinum’s Eleazar Rodgers in the mix, defenders in both teams are in for a torrid time.

Both players are 1.9 metres tall, they unsettle markers, are very good in the air and, importantly, their respective sides rely on them to set up scoring opportunities and bring teammates into the game.

Paulse missed Ajax’s last fixture - a 1-0 Nedbank Cup win over Bloemfontein Celtic - through suspension, so he is eager to get back into the thick of things. The 32-year-old forward had been out injured before returning to the starting team a few weeks ago. He has been influential for the team and is looking to again be the man to ensure Ajax come away with victory on what is likely to be a difficult road trip.

The Capetonians have not done well on the road. But their last away fixture - 2-1 against SuperSport United last month - resulted in a win, and Paulse believes that it could be the start of better times.

“Look, we all know our away form has not been great, not only this season but over the last few years,” said Paulse. “But I think the attitude is starting to change… the players are a lot more committed on the road. They are aware of our dismal record and they are determined to change it.”

Athlone-born Paulse came through the Ajax academy and has gone on to enjoy a successful career as a professional footballer. After making his PSL debut for the Cape club in 2000, he played with merit at Hammarby in Sweden and also enjoyed spells at Bloem Celtic, Platinum and SuperSport.

His return to Ajax two years ago was always on the cards - it’s a club he loves with a passion. And he is also now revelling in his role as a senior pro, guiding, advising and nurturing the youngsters in the Ajax squad.

“I am sure we are in for a tough outing against Platinum,” said Paulse. “They have some quality footballers… we all know what Eleazar is capable of. He is from Cape Town and also spent last season on loan with us. They also have Robert Ngambi, and they’ve brought in some good players, like Bryce Moon, Punch Masenamela and Tlou Segolela.

“But we’ve been doing well recently and it’s certainly going to be an intriguing game. The two teams are fighting on opposite ends of the PSL table - Platinum are at the bottom, battling relegation or a promotion play-off spot, while we are in the top half, wanting to secure a top-eight finish.

“I’m just happy to be back after missing the last game through suspension. I’m keen to get back and contribute to the team in whatever form the coach deems fit. Platinum, especially away from home, will be a huge test for us, but we are confident we can go there and get something from the match.”

Saturday: AmaZulu v Free State Stars; Maritzburg United v SuperSport United; Platinum Stars v Ajax Cape Town (Royal Bafokeng, 8.15pm); Polokwane City v Wits

Sunday: Bloemfontein Celtic v University of Pretoria

Weekend Argus

Original source: Ajax match could hinge on tall strikers

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