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Santos motivated by new ruling 02/06/04
Santos will be playing with renewed vigour when they take on Wits at the Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday evening, in a bid to qualify next season's Champions League.

Touchline Photo

The Peoples Team have learnt that the top three South African teams will qualify for next season's African Champions League.

Boebie Solomons' side is currently in sixth spot in the Castle Premiership, while Wits occupy the crucial third place, with just two points separating the sides.

The currently sees just the top two sides go through to the prestigious competition, but Solomons revealed that moves are being made to include a third team and believes this will be enough motivation to spur his players on.

"We've been told it's on the cards and likely to be rubberstamped soon," he said. "It's great to have more to play for at this late stage of the season.

"It's the time of the season when teams who've nothing but pride to play for simply go through the motions. Some players become disillusioned and lose focus. In our case, the players will know they have to dig deep for a while longer to try to get us to third place, should it materialise."

Solomons did not want to give away too much about his selections, but Tyren Arendse is expected to return to the starting line-up. The speedy winger missed Santos' CAF Cup win over King Faisal Babes through suspension and, according to his coach, is "raring to make up for lost time".

Defender Chris Tsotetsi and livewire striker Tkokozani Xaba are back from injury and likely to play some part in the proceedings.

"It's nice to have a few more options," said Solomons, who also dispelled talks that star striker Jean Marc Ithier was among a number of players not eligible for the Wits fixture as their contracts had expired at the end of May, normally the end of the domestic season.

"That's a technicality I have to talk to the boss (Goolam Allie) about," he said. "As far as I know, players are signed for a particular season, and it's not the club's fault when the league programme is running late."

Meanwhile, Wits coach Roger da Sa will looking to his solid defence to set the foundation for his team to build on.

"You won't win too many games if you can't defend properly," he said. "I suppose we all know how Santos play their football, but there's suddenly so much riding on (tonight's) match that anything can happen, so we don't want to be caught flat."

Da Sa also hit out at the length of the CAF Cup and feels that the competition should not run longer than three weeks.

"I can't change the rules, but consideration needs to given to the welfare of the players who hardly ever get a decent break between seasons.

"The problem starts in the new season when the legs start to go. You pick up all sorts of injuries and, before you know it, the team is off to a woeful start, which in the end could make or break your campaign.

"I think that's the way to go in future. Let's get all the (qualifying) teams in one area and let them play off for the right to be crowned champions of Africa. Otherwise the football season just drags on and on, and no one gets a chance to recharge his batteries. 

However, should the Cape side beat the Clever Boys, they will leapfrog into third spot on 51 points, a point ahead of Wits and Supersport United.

Fifth placed Moroka Swallows has already completed their fixtures and will stay on 48 points, while Santos and Wits both have two games remaining, with Supersport set to play their final fixture against Zulu Royals on Sunday.

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