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PREVIEWS/REPORTS
Tough test for Birds and Urban Warriors
Moroka Swallows and Ajax Cape Town square up to each other at the Rand Stadium on Sunday afternoon in what promises to be the pick of this weekend's PSL matches.

Both club's had excellent campaigns last season with Ajax pushing Kaizer Chiefs all the way in the race for league title honours, while the Birds won the Absa Cup, reached the final of the SAA Supa 8 and also finished in the top eight of the league.

Both team are highly ambitious and in Gordon Igesund and Gavin Hunt they have two of the PSL's top coach's, who will both be looking to take their teams even higher this season.

To make the game even more interesting, Ajax's inspirational skipper of last season, Alfred Phiri has joined the Swallows in the off season, boosting the Johannesburg side's already impressive midfield department.

Phiri left the Cape team on good terms, but there certainly won't be any time for sentimentality out on the park on Sunday.

"How weird then that in the very first match of the new season I have to do battle with the same players I was guiding on and off the pitch not so long ago," he is reported as saying in the Cape Times.

"I hope the game will be played in the right spirit and there won't be any need for anyone to prove a point against me. I certainly don't have any points to prove to my old teammates."

Apart from Phiri, Hunt has also boosted his squad with the signing of striker Cecil Oerson from Bloemfontein Celtic, who was the top scorer in the First Division last season and looks set to torment PSL defenders with his blistering pace.

Former Wits utility player Ivan Winstanley is also an important acquisition, although it is undoubtedly the signing of former Chiefs defender Mohammed Ouseb who was Hunt's most crucial signing, especially in light of the defensive frailties which the team displayed at times during last season.

Hunt is aware of the threat that Ajax have up front, and will be glad to have Ouseb's experience in his team.

"Ajax have a few other players who'll need some attention, but the key would be to make sure Kanku does not have the room move in close to our goal. He is lethal from close range," he said.

"It's only the first match of the season and everyone will be out to find his feet as quickly as possible, so there's bound to be some anxiety on both sides

"In the end, whoever settles quickest could walk off with the points. I hope that's us, because a winning start is crucial since the talk at the club is to go all the way to the league title," said the Birds coach.

Ajax, meanwhile, have strengthened their team with the signing of experienced Zimbabwean international Norman Mapenza, 32, and DRC player Bukassa Kasongo, 25, while also promoting three players from the junior ranks.

Mapenza, who was the first black player to play in the European Champion's League, is expected to fill the void left by Phiri, however the Urban Warriors face a race against time in order to have him registered for Sunday's game.

Coach Gordon Igesund knows that he has a tough task ahead of him. 

"It won't be easy. At the moment we are struggling to register our new players, while we also have Moeneeb Josephs, Ashley Opperman and Brent Carelse out with suspensions."

Bradley August has ben appointed as the Urban Warriors' new skipper, and he quietly confident about bringing back all three points in his first ever match as captain of a professional team.

It' always hard to play at the Rand Stadium, which is a very big pitch, but the guys are all focussed on getting our season of to a great start," said the new captain.

"We have been training hard for the last six weeks and everyone is looking forward to the new season."

The match kicks off at 15H15 at the Rand Stadium, and Swallows have promised to let women and children under 12 into the ground for free.

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