Title in sight for clever Wits!


JOHANNESBURG – Everyone is so invested at Bidvest Wits this season, even kit man Jack Ndlovu occasionally barks orders from the dug-out.

It’s a big season for the club as they edge a step closer to their first ever championship with each win following a 1-0 triumph over Orlando Pirates on Thursday night.

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Cuthbert Malajila (right) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the crucial goal for Wits against Pirates. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePixWits midfielder Ben Motshwari (right), who was voted as the Man of the Match, tries to challenge Issa Sarr of Orlando Pirates. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePixWits coach Gavin Hunt will be a relieved man after claiming three points against Pirates. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

With Mamelodi Sundowns dropping two points following their 2-2 draw against Platinum Stars in the earlier Absa Premiership kickoff, the Clever Boys began breaking away by ending the night three points clear of their nearest title rivals.

The title is probably in sight, with Wits on 54 points in 26 games, and Sundowns on 51 in the same amount of games

Ndlovu’s excitement wouldn’t have surpassed that of coach Gavin Hunt, who still can’t contain his own antics on the side of the pitch, even though he’s won the league trophy three times with SuperSport United.

This is his fourth season at Wits, and it was only in August that Hunt brought home some silverware in the form of the MTN8, coincidentally after thrashing Sundowns 3-0 on a wet pitch in Mbombela.

Getting one over them now in the title race would carry a bit more weight, and definitely has more prestige.

For a while, it looked like this encounter might also produce a stalemate, but one without goals.

That was unlike the fixture at Lucas Moripe Stadium where Sundowns, three days after narrowly losing to Wits here and allowing the home side to go top of the log with a point clear, were held by a struggling Dikwena outfit.

Wits coach Gavin Hunt will be a relieved man after claiming three points against Pirates. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

The Clever Boys were by far the most dominant side, but it was near impossible to see where they would get the goal.

Pirates had their moments, but they, too, only created half-chances, and when they thought they’d come close, goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs showed his experience in blocking efforts from winger Thabo Rakhale particularly.

Hunt was forced into a halftime change when Sifiso Myeni got hurt and striker Cuthbert Malajila took his place.

The Zimbabwean didn’t take too long to make an impact, scoring 11 minutes after coming on to break the deadlock.

You’ve heard fans celebrate a goal, but the roar this time was slightly unique, much like on Monday night, when Ben Motshwari found the back of the net to head home the winner against Sundowns.

Fun fact: Motshwari was again involved in the build-up to the goal on Thursday night, as he scuffed a shot from a Phakamani Mahlambi cross and the rebound was impressively tucked away by Malajila.

There’s another home game for Wits on Sunday against Maritzburg United, who are keen to consolidate their top-eight spot and have been improving under interim coach Fadlu Davids.

But these compact university grounds have proved to be a fortress for the Clever Boys in the second half of the season.

In 2017, Hunt’s men have won eight of their nine games at this venue, the blip coming in that shock 1-0 defeat to SuperSport United last week.

They will have to put on another show against Maritzburg before visiting hoodoo side Free State Stars in Goble Park, where they haven’t won since Hunt arrived at Wits.

But for now, they can toast to being top of the table with four games remaining after a tough week – they’ve earned it.

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