His headache has especially been compounded by the fact that two experienced veterans performed magnificently in a 1-0 league defeat to Free State Stars on Tuesday. With De Sa resting central defenders Rivaldo Coetzee and Abbubaker Mobara, and central midfielders Travis Graham and Granwald Scott both suspended for the midweek game, 32-year-old Dominic Isaacs and 30-year-old Lance Davids were given a run – and De Sa was blown away by their robust, influential display.
Now, in a Cup semi-final against a quality SuperSport team, where calm, mature heads may well be needed, the duo have given De Sa some food for thought.
“My job was made rather difficult after Tuesday’s game against Free State Stars,” said De Sa. “It was a difficult fixture against extremely physical opponents. But we did well and we could have sneaked a point, with a little bit of luck. We had chances, but missed them.
“A number of players, though, put their hands up for selection for the semi-final, especially Dominic (Isaacs) and Lance (Davids). Dominic won a number of aerial duels and was up for the Free State team’s aggressive approach. Lance also has the same steel and he got stuck in. It was good that we had the two of them on the pitch in such a physical match. Lance has done a fantastic job for us whenever needed. He is a great professional and I’m sure he will be ready if he is needed in the semi-final.
“But I can only start with 11 players… I wish I could start with 25. But I’ll look at previous form, current form, the nature of the opposition and the game plan I want to use before deciding on the starting team.”
The measure of a successful football team is a good balance between youth and experience. For most of this season, though, Ajax have made do with a special crop of talented youngsters. And, for De Sa, it would be a magnificent achievement if this bunch of kids can make it to the final.
“These young boys are winners,” said the Ajax coach. “Remember that, when they were juniors, they won many trophies at the club, not only in Cape Town but overseas as well. They know how to win…
“This, of course, is a different level, but they are growing, and they continue to grow and mature. They are not there yet, but this semi-final is an opportunity for them to gain more valuable experience, and give themselves a shot at a final.
“For me, as coach, there is nothing more exciting than working with such emerging footballers. Look at a player like Rivaldo (Coetzee)… I gave him his debut as a 17-year-old last year, now he is in the semi-final of a Cup competition, has a few Bafana Bafana caps to his name, and he gets better with every game. That alone is motivation for me.”
De Sa also revealed why the match is taking place at Athlone, the venue for their last two Cup games, and not Cape Town Stadium, which is usually Ajax’s home ground.
“When the draw was made and we were at home, I opened it up to the players to decide where they wanted to play,” said the coach. “I must say I was surprised that the majority opted for Athlone. But I guess it’s a ground with a lot of history for many in the squad, a stadium that’s close to their heart.
“It’ll be great to get to the final, not only for the club and the squad, but also for the city. It’s an opportunity to do the Cape proud. This a region that has produced so many good players and it would be fantastic to put the city on the football map again.”
Original source: Davids, Isaacs in the mix for Cup semi-final