Johannesburg – Bidvest Wits head into Saturday’s opening round of the Nedbank Cup with a trump card in their pack, in the form of wily coach Gavin Hunt, who joined at the beginning of the season.
Hunt is the only coach to have lifted the country’s premier knockout cup title twice, with his first triumph now a decade ago, when he won the trophy while at Moroka Swallows.
The 49-year-old then went on to taste success again in 2012, when his SuperSport United outfit beat Mamelodi Sundowns in the final, capping a season of ups and downs for the Cape Town-born former defender.
Furthermore, Hunt and his Matsatsantsa reached the final in last year’s edition, where Kaizer Chiefs edged United to lift the trophy en route to completing a league and cup double.
No stranger to the competition, Hunt will be wary of Saturday’s round of 32 opponents, AmaBEE, who have had little to no introduction to Hunt and his newly-assembled Wits outfit.
Based in Tembisa, near Pretoria, AmaBEE qualified for the tournament from the Gauteng Safa Second Division and fit the tournament’s slogan of “David versus Goliath” in a tie that should be a straightforward one for Hunt’s troops.
Hunt, however, has seen it all before and warned that BEE should not be taken lightly.
“We’ve got everything to lose and they’ve got nothing to lose. They’ll have a go and it certainly won’t be easy,” Hunt said as the Clever Boys wrap up preparations for Saturday’s clash, one of eight on the day.
“Football is one of the only sports where the underdogs have a big chance. If we don’t play properly and come with the right mindset, we’ll have problems.
“If you don’t come with the right attitude, you will have a problem, so we’ll go there, set our stalls out and try and play from there.”
Wits lifted the title in 2010, beating AmaZulu in Johannesburg under former coach Roger de Sa, for their maiden cup success and Hunt said he was excited to bring his knowledge and experience in the prestigious knockout tournament to the club.
“We don’t think of finals, we think of playing the next opposition, which we have to play on Saturday,” he said.
“I still think we’re a long way off where I want to be and where the team wants to be. There’s been a huge mentality shift and a huge attitude shift in everything that we do.
“There will be a lot of movement I’m sure, and we have to be on our game, otherwise we’ll go home with nothing. We have to keep our structure, keep our discipline.”
Currently fourth in the Premiership standings, Wits have already benefited from Hunt’s vast knowledge of the local game and now have the opportunity to challenge for further silverware.
In order for that to happen, says Hunt, Wits will look to rotate their squad as the fixture lists enters a particularly tricky week for the Johannesburg side.
Following the clash with AmaBEE, Wits host SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns in the space for five days starting Tuesday, with both teams ahead of Hunt’s men in the Premiership standings.
“If you look at our week coming up, we’ve got a make or break week for us this week. We’ve got a game on Tuesday and a game Saturday against two teams that are above us in the league,” Hunt said.
“We’ve got to rotate a little bit. We can’t expect to flog the players… three games in seven days.
“I’ve got to juggle a little bit here and there. We have to try and use all of our players where we can, so there will be. I do believe in always rotating a little bit.”
For BEE, meanwhile, the team has been gearing up for their toughest test to date, but striker Terri Ledwaba feels the minnows will be up for an entertaining afternoon at Sinaba Stadium, east of Johannesburg.
“Training has been intense this week, preparing for this huge match,” Ledwaba said.
“Everyone is happy because they want to play and we’re going there with what we have and we want to advertise ourselves as players.” – Sapa