Wits coach Gavin Hunt hopes his team can make a good start to the MTN8 title defence. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt believes that Bafana Bafana should field young players in the African Nations Championship (Chan) instead of looking to get senior players that they’ll struggle to get.    

Bafana were hit by 10 withdrawals before the 25-man squad Stuart Baxter named had even gone to camp to prepare for Saturday’s clash with Zambia in East London in the final phase of the Chan qualifiers.

The tournament, for local-based players, has always been a thorny issue, with the South African Football Association (Safa) struggling to find what they want out of it.

That has resulted in Safa and the national team coach clashing with clubs who refuse to release certain players in a tournament that’s looked down upon and falls outside the Fifa calendar.

Bafana are one round away from booking a ticket to Kenya next year, needing to get past Zambia over two legs to qualify for next year’s tournament.

“I think that you should take the Under-20s there,” Hunt said. “If you lose, lose with a future. I wouldn’t even look at the players who are 27-28. I would go with the Under-20s, unless they’re playing in the first team. It should be youngsters playing there.

“They might even get a better team. The intentions of that tournament are good, but with the way football is right now, the money invested in it, you won’t easily release players for that.”

Jabulani Shongwe is the only Wits player in the Bafana Chan squad. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Wits’ only representative in the Chan squad is Jabulani Shongwe, who has been deemed surplus to the club’s needs, opening the way for him to move elsewhere.

The Clever Boys are preparing to retain their MTN8 title on Friday against Golden Arrows at Bidvest Stadium.

This knockout competition laid the foundation for the Clever Boys to march to the Absa Premiership title for the first time in the club’s 96-year history. 

“When we played in the final of the MTN8 (against Mamelodi Sundowns), I looked at the players we had on the bench and the stands, and I thought that we have a chance to do good things here,” Hunt said.

“We were the best side in the country. Winning the cup was good for us. But if you look in the past, winners of the MTN8 generally don’t have a good season.

“We didn’t fall into that trap and came good. The strength of our team was good, and we had a lot of options. We are better when we play a lot of games.”


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