Africa / 29 November 2019, 08:30am / Mihlali Baleka
Bidvest Wits’ response to the threat Horoya AC will pose in the opening round of the CAF Confederation Cup group stage will likely set the tone for their season in the competition.
The Clever Boys will welcome the Guineans to Bidvest Stadium on Sunday (6pm), hoping for a fast start.
But that is easier said than done. First and foremost, Horoya’s away record against South African teams is decent, having drawn two matches - against Mamelodi Sundowns in the Champions League last year and SuperSport United in the 2017 Confederation Cup.
The third time proved to be no lucky charm for the Guineans, though. They were hammered 3-0 by Orlando Pirates in a Champions League group stage match last season, before knocking the Sea Robbers out of the competition with a 2-1 win in the return leg at home in Conakry.
Sure, Pirates’ win against the Guineans could have given South African teams hope that they can copy them, but for Wits though, a win in this game could go a long way in shaping their continental aspirations, especially after the disappointing statement made by the club early this season.
Joined by coach Gavin Hunt and new freebies before the start of the domestic season, then Wits CEO Jose Ferreira made it clear that the club will not be placing any “priority” on the Confederation Cup this season.
Ferreira, who’s since resigned from his post and now works for the club as a consultant, said that they were in a financial crisis and that’s why they strengthened the team with free players and had to retrench a chunk of staff members.
But in the wake of doing well in the preliminary round with an 8-1 aggregate win over UD Songo from Mozambique, Hunt has changed his tune, saying: “It is always in their (players) best interest to churn out their best in all the projects”.
You see, before the financial troubles engulfed Wits, it had been Hunt’s aspiration to swim with the big fish in continental football, but so far he’s yet to realise his dream, having failed to make the group stage after being knocked out in the preliminary rounds.
Wits’ domestic season has also got off to a roller-coaster start as they are fifth in the Premiership standings with 16 points, 15 behind pacesetters Kaizer Chiefs, who’ve played four games more.
Hunt, however, knows that games in hand are not points guaranteed, and that is why they might be forced to decide between taking domestic football seriously or doing well on the continent.
Another option for the club was to cash in on captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and midfielder Thabang Monare, but they’ve been reluctant to sell locally, saying they would only respond to offers from abroad.
Hlatswayo and Monare have, however, made it clear that they are interested in joining one of the traditional big three - something that could eventually force the club’s hand if their financial situation doesn’t change any time soon.
But for now, the Clever Boys will be hoping to start their continental campaign with a bang.
And that is why there’ll be no better time, place and opponents to showcase their intentions in the African competition than opening their campaign at home against Horoya.