AJAX Cape Town captain Travis Graham says the side hopes to take advantage of Kaizer Chiefs’ chopping and changing in defence and the generosity of organisers to play the final at sea level when they clash with Amakhosi in the MTN8 decider on Saturday.
The pain of losing the Nedbank Cup decider to Mamelodi Sundowns at the end of the last campaign is also a huge spur to his side, he says, as is the fact that for the second time in a few months they will play at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Ajax lost to Sundowns on penalties after a 0-0 draw in May with defender Abbubaker Mobara missing the chance to win it for his side in the shoot-out.
Graham believes his team is a lot wiser from that experience and will put the Chiefs defence — that has looked less than secure this season — under pressure.
“We have got a good bunch of strikers now and they are looking good,” Graham says. “This is a good time for us to play them because they (Chiefs) haven’t been doing too well in defence and have struggled in that area.
“We will do our best to take advantage of that and it will be important to take our chances early in the game.”
The skipper adds that returning to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium means the players can follow the same routine as the Nedbank Cup final and will feel more settled.
“The last final … we didn’t know what to expect. Everybody was a bit nervous, we didn’t handle the pressure so well. But I think this time we have been through the occasion, we know what we are going into.
“We were too concerned with the circumstances, the occasion, the crowd, we didn’t play our normal game against Sundowns, but we learnt a lot.
“The build-up during the week with the media and everything around it … we are more prepared this time and hopefully we can play our best football and show the country we can actually bring home silverware as youngsters.”
The fact that Ajax have managed to retain just about all of their talent from last season makes for a more cohesive unit, he says.
“We haven’t sold any of the starting XI that we played with in the Nedbank Cup final and that is one of the things that’s has helped Ajax at the moment. The guys have come through the academy together and link well with each other. It’s showing now in the results we are getting.
“The vibe is very good, there is a lot of competition with the new guys, so everybody is working hard and doing well for each other. It’s a great feeling.”
Graham says playing at sea level is a huge fillip to his side in a game where they expect to do a lot of running to contain Chiefs.
“It’s a big bonus, it’s difficult for us to acclimatise in Jo’burg. It’s something that can really work in our favour.”