Chiefs win, but Hunt and Wits have the trophy


JOHANNESBURG – It was pretty obvious the Absa Premiership had reached its business end when Bidvest Wits, who were officially handed their crown as champions here on Saturday afternoon, included veteran Dillon Sheppard in their match-day squad.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela also ditched his standard formal attire for sneakers and a bomber jacket.

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Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo lifts the Premiership trophy! Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePixWits coach Gavin Hunt raises the trophy with captain Thulani Hlatshwayo at FNB Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePixThe Wits players were still smiling afterwards despite the defeat to Kaizer Chiefs. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix

He also threw in youngsters Emmanuel Letlotlo and Ryan Moon, having recently been urged by club chairman Kaizer Motaung to take a risk with the kids. But it was a little too late.

His counterpart Gavin Hunt, now a four-time Premier League winner and one of three coaches in South Africa to achieve that, has proved that a youthful side can win trophies.

This was an exhibition game, and it definitely had that feel about it. By halftime, Wits had made two changes, probably forced by injury, but with nothing to lose, there was no reason why Hunt couldn’t make the changes.

Although there were moments where either side could have grabbed the lead, there was no real urgency.

Perhaps there was a bit of pride at stake for Chiefs, who finish a second successive season with no trophies for the first time since the late 1990s.

And it is way too early to tell whether they will come back stronger and ready to dominate the premiership, similarly to when under the late Ted Dumitru and then more recently Stuart Baxter, there were trophies galore.

Gustavo Paez, who scored the winner for Kaizer Chiefs, beats Wits left back Sifiso Hlanti to the ball at FNB Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

Hunt will in all likelihood try and keep the core of this championship-winning team together, even though the statistics suggest that he might not be able to.

In his four years to date with the Clever Boys, the former SuperSport United coach had a high turnover of players.

The fact that they have finally clinched the title suggests that it was all necessary to change the mentality of the club from a mid-table team with no lofty ambitions to a side that is considered to be among the title challengers every season.

The Clever Boys would have wanted to lift the cup having won this game against a Chiefs team that look likely to undergo yet another makeover to help Komphela finally win his first major silverware – if he stays.

Wits fans were singing and dancing in the stands ahead of the trophy presentation at FNB Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

But this was not their crowning moment. That came last week at their home ground when they beat Polokwane City 2-0, and with defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns being held to a 2-2 draw by Maritzburg United in Atteridgeville, Wits were crowned champions with a game to spare.

When striker Gustavo Paez scored the only goal to guarantee Chiefs would finish fourth, an improvement from their fifth-place position last season, Hunt was hurt.

But that bitter pill was easy to swallow as he had a spring in his step, knowing he would collect a winners’ medal moments later.


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