Cape Town City are set to lock horns with Ajax Cape Town in the season’s first Cape Derby on Saturday.
The rivalry between the two Mother City-based outfits has become one of the most exciting over the past two seasons.
Ahead of the exciting encounter on Saturday, Goal caught up with the Citizens coach Benni McCarthy to hear his thought on the team’s progress thus far and his expectations for the derby.
While it has been an impressive start for City and McCarthy’s tenure in Cape Town, the 2016 Telkom Knockout Cup champions have gone off the boil of late.
But the Bafana Bafana legend believes that with the big games now something of the past, they are still on track and can use the Cape Derby to build momentum and move top of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) log on Saturday.
“It’s a perfect opportunity and the challenge could not have been more difficult than the run we just had. If you look at our start compared to all the other teams, we faced Wits three times, we faced Polokwane, Platinum Stars and we played Chiefs and Pirates, and now we play Ajax,” McCarthy told Goal.
“So, if you just look at that start for any team, where we find ourselves now, I think you have to be incredibly proud of our achievements. What the players have done to be up there on the table with the incredibly difficult games we’ve played, I’m not saying it is going to be easier but it gives us good momentum. We played all the big teams and we were punching above our weight. We were really strong,” McCarthy explained.
“I felt both Chiefs and Pirates’ games, we could have gotten away with a point at least or all three points for that matter, and that sets us up nicely for the Ajax game. It’s going to be more passionate than most because it is a local Cape Town Derby where we have a few Capetonian players in, and I know it will mean a lot to them, but it will mean a lot to every single player in the dressing room. For us, it’s just three points at the end of the day and we fight until the bitter end because we want to get the three points, and if we win, it will set us up nicely and put us back on top of the log. That is where the players want to see themselves and where I want to see the team. I’m sure that’s where the chairman would love to be - at the top. It is better to look down than to look up. People must chase us. We don’t want to chase after anybody," he expressed.
Meanwhile, despite being proud of his team, the 39-year-old has admitted it was disappointing to drop points against the Soweto giants.
“Very proud, very honoured but a bit gutted that we lost six points against Chiefs and Pirates. But that is football," he said.
"Like coach Stanley Menzo said, coaches and players have no control over what the referee does in a game, and I felt decisions were poor on the referee’s part but I only realise they are only human. They make mistakes and sometimes it’s costly for some and not so costly for others, but we just have to keep moving and we hope the referees do learn from their mistakes and they try to be better. We try for that not to affect us or let it stop us from doing our jobs," he continued.
Furthermore, McCarthy heaped praise on City's new recruit Ayanda Patosi, who after a slow start to life in Cape Town has begun to show the kind of form which saw him star in Belgium and he is expected to star in the Derby. But McCarthy also emphasised that City’s fortunes are not reliant on a single player but a collective effort.
“We don’t have individual talent and we don’t rely on one player in particular,” McCarthy explained.
“Ayanda (Patosi) is a fantastic player. He has unbelievable qualities. He is a player that can make a difference in a tight game. So, we want him to be at his best and to be 100 percent fit. But we also have our captain who has been remarkable this season, we also have Thabo Nodada, who has been exceptional this season as well. He is a young player with an unbelievable future ahead of him, and we have the experience of Victor Obinna and Majoro scoring goals. That’s very promising for me that you have so many players that you can rely on to take the game by the scruff of the neck," explained McCarthy.
“We just want it to be an entertaining game of football and a good game for Cape Town City and the PSL. We just want people to enjoy and support local football a bit more, and starting Saturday it will be the change of South African football,” he continued.
Lastly, McCarthy explained his decision to drop Shuaib Walter’s for City's last outing agaist Polokwane City following his howler against Orlando Pirates.
“I like to rotate my team,” he said. “I like to keep everyone on their toes and give everyone a chance whether you play good, bad or not so good. Then I like to give everyone a chance that they know that no one is in their comfort zones and everyone has to fight and work very hard. I was going to give Shuaib a rest after the Pirates’ game. Whether he made the mistake or not was not the reason I took him out. We’ll see this week. All the keepers and players are working really hard and come Friday, I will make my decision which starting XI I’m going to go for. If Shuaib is there then good for him, if he isn’t then he’ll just have to keep fighting,” he concluded.