CAPE TOWN – The long recess that might have broken Cape Town City’s momentum was welcomed by Benni McCarthy and his team due to their long injury list.
The Citizens host Polokwane City on Friday, 10 days after signalling their intentions to fight for the Absa Premiership by beating Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 at Athlone Stadium. That victory came a few days after they also defeated Bidvest Wits at Bidvest Stadium in an entertaining come from behind 3-2 performance.
Logic would dictate that such a confident team wouldn’t want any break, in case they lose their momentum. But McCarthy thinks differently.
“A break is what this team needed,” McCarthy said. “My players are exhausted. It’s not like I am spoiled for choice where I have (Thabo) Nodada, (Roland) Putsche and Kouassi (Kouadja), Kwanda Mngonyama also got injured in the Wits game.
So for me, any break is welcomed because that would give me a couple of days for Kwanda to return. If I can recover one of the injured players, that’s nice. And I wanted to give the players time off with their family, wives and girlfriends.”
City’s last three matches not only showed that they could challenge for honours, but also that they had a tiger in midfield in Zukile Kewuti. The midfielder from Nyanga faced a baptism of fire against the Brazilians at Loftus Versfeld when he was thrown into the lion’s den in place of Teko Modise.
The lions, Hlompho Kekana and Andile Jali, devoured him and Thato Mokeke in the Brazilians’ 3-2 win. But McCarthy kept faith in the tireless Kewuti. He gave him 90 minutes against the Clever Boys in Milpark.
Kewuti held his own against the former South African champions, but his crowning moment was his display in the second half against Sundowns in the 2-1 win in the Mother City. He started slowly but found himself in the second half.
“He has a good engine and is box-to-box,” McCarthy said. “He might not have the quality that a lot of the players in the league possess, but it’s almost impossible to beat someone who doesn’t quit. And that’s what he gives us.
“Maybe people might say that the occasion was too big for Zuki, but I didn’t think so. I thought that his first touch was letting him down, the ball got stuck on his legs. He comes from the (MultiChoice) Diski (Challenge), he doesn’t know better. Now he is playing in big games. I gave him confidence.
McCarthy continued: “I said to Zuki, ‘Relax boy. Don’t listen to people in the stands calling for changes. I played one season at (Orlando) Pirates, so I don’t know this culture of whistles and calling for changes, and when that happens you change.
“I am the boss, not them! You listen to me. Out there, I tell you. Keep pushing. You’re going to run them into the ground. Their legs are running out, and that’s when you are going to have joy.’ He didn’t drop his head and kept pushing.”