Johannesburg – Gavin Hunt says he is looking forward to competing in a third successive Nedbank Cup final, adding that winning a trophy with Wits would cap a successful first season with his new club.
The Clever Boys showed their cup credentials by beating the defending champions, Kaizer Chiefs, 4-2 on penalties in Johannesburg on Saturday, booking their spot in the final of the country’s – and continent’s – most lucrative cup competition.
Hunt won the trophy in 2012 with SuperSport United, before finishing runners-up last season, as Chiefs lifted the title en route to securing a league and cup double.
Now at Wits, Hunt continued his love-affair with the Nedbank Cup, where the Students meet Orlando Pirates in the final, with the winners walking away with a cool R7 million in prize money.
“Last year I was in the final with SuperSport United and I didn't win anything. You've got to win trophies,” Hunt said after the game at Bidvest Stadium.
“Kaizer Chiefs is a quality side, but overall, a great effort. I knew the game was going to go as far as possible.”
With the scores locked at 2-2 after extra-time, Wits’ Moeneeb Josephs made two stunning stops on the the trot to deny Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala in the shootout, allowing the Students to capitalise, succeeding in all four kicks and securing progress into the final.
Sibusiso Vilakazi and Katlego Mphela cancelled each other out before half-time, both from the penalty spot, before Amos Ngcobo bagged the lead for Wits shortly after the break.
But drama followed as George Maluleka equalised for a second time in the 54th minute, ensuring a tight finish which produced plenty of opportunities, but led to nothing as the tie was sent into the nerve-wrecking shootout.
Already assured of third place in the league, Hunt and his troops will be looking to win their first trophy since 2010, when the Johannesburg outfit lifted the Nedbank Cup under Roger De Sa.
But with his first season almost under his belt, Hunt reflected on a largely successful campaign, where the team improved on last season’s fourth place finish, and going all the way following last season’s disappointing first round exit in the Nedbank Cup.
“If you’ve watched us this season, at this stadium, there have been some fantastic games here and the last couple of weeks have been breathtaking,” Hunt added, looking back at Wits’ solid home performances.
“We had that one week with Sundowns and SuperSport, there were six goals, end-to-end stuff and long may it continue.
“I know we’re going to be stronger next season, we made some good signings and if we get everything right, we’ll be a threat.
“We threw the league away because of all those draws, so that's obviously very disappointing. For me, winning trophies is success.”
Hunt’s skipper, Vilakazi, who scored the game’s opening goal and converted his penalty in the shootout, expressed his delight at reaching the final, praising his team for a fine effort against their more fancied opponents.
“It was a tough game, but credit to the boys for the hard work Ä I could’s ask for more,” Vilakazi said.
“It went all the way to extra-time but we earned it and we’re happy that we’re going to the final.” – Sapa