Wits reached the group stage of a continental competition for the first time in the club’s history this season. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Wits reached the group stage of a continental competition for the first time in the club’s history this season. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Campaigning in Africa has toughened up Wits

By Bonginkosi Ndadane Time of article published Feb 11, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – Wits’ poor performance in the Caf Confederation Cup will put them in a good place in the fight for the PSL title. That’s the view of Wits coach Gavin Hunt who praised the Confederation Cup for toughening up the Clever Boys.

Wits reached the group stage of a continental competition for the first time in the club’s history this season. They fared poorly, finishing bottom of their group with no wins and just three goals from six matches.

But they gained invaluable experience during that process in a campaign that saw them grouped with Guinea’s Horoya, Al-Nasr of Libya and Mali’s Djoliba. That experience came in handy in an emotional and entertaining Nedbank Cup clash with Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Sunday. Wits took a 2-0 lead, trailed 3-2 at one stage, equalised on the last minute of optional time in extra time, before winning the encounter on penalties. There were casualties during the match, with Wits assistant coach Paul Johnstone and midfielder Elias Pelembe being sent off.

“You are never going to get a love affair between Pirates and Wits, and there is always going to be spices in the game as it should be,” Hunt said. “But I think that it gets created by other situations. We stuck at it. Like I said after the game, Caf does that to you. In Caf, if you tackle below waist high there’s no foul. 

In South Africa, you know the story. It’s a different game here. What we went through the last couple of months, nobody saw those games, but my friend, we suffered. We suffered, but I think that we will gain a lot in the long run because it brings a lot of togetherness in the team and builds a lot of character. It showed today (Sunday). We were down to 10 men, last year we played here with nine men and we won. We could have finished with nine or eight here, it goes like that.”

Wits will now shift their focus to the league where they trail log leaders Kaizer Chiefs by 15 points. But the Students have four games in hand. One of those games is against Maritzburg United tomorrow at Bidvest Stadium. The games in hand gives Wits a certain advantage in that should they win them they could close the gap between themselves and Chiefs. But it also adds pressure because games in hand don’t necessarily translate to points. Despite that, Wits will give it their all in the league and in the Nedbank Cup.

“We can’t prioritise cups or (league) games, not with the size of our squad,” Hunt said. “Every game is important to us. We can’t be like Liverpool and play Under-23s. No! No! No! Look, it is going to catch up with us. There is no doubt about that, our squad is the smallest in the league. We’ve got 22 players. 

We lost another one (Pelembe), but we have cover who can come in and play on Wednesday. But how are we going to play in the coming weeks is going to be difficult for our squad. But we are going to manage it. The day games don’t help. It’s very hot. The tempo of the game is much slower. We will see.”

Bonginkosi Ndadane

 

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