JOHANNESBURG – Daine Klate, a serial medal winner with all the clubs he has been with in his career, admits that it’s a bit strange preparing for a Cup final with Bidvest Wits probably considered the underdogs according to the form guide.
The Clever Boys head into Saturday evening’s Telkom Knockout final against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Princess Magogo Stadium rooted to the bottom of the Absa Premiership table despite being defending champions.
An awful start to their title defence, which they can’t seem to shake off, has led to Wits collecting just nine points from 11 matches.
“It’s contrasting,” said Klate yesterday, comparing the club’s league performance to that of their cup run. “And concerning. We need to focus on the league at some point because it is our bread and butter.
“But maybe doing well in the cup is a good way for us to recover and do well going forward.”
Klate has played in 14 cup finals in his career at SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates and now Wits, and has a winning ratio of more than half.
So, does he have doubts about adding another medal to his shrine of achievements for his two sons to admire?
“For me, it is important to go into it like it’s my last one,” he explains. “My career is winding down a little bit as I am getting older, so I am not taking this lightly.
“I don’t want anything here to be different. We will worry about our league form after the final.
“And fortunately the results haven’t been going well for everyone else in the league because we are bottom of the log, but are just behind by 10 points.
“If we win three or four games in a row, we could be at the top. That is how crazy it is at the moment.”
Klate is also backing Wits coach Gavin Hunt to lift them out of their rut, even though he said he had never been part of a struggling team under Hunt’s guidance.
The winger, who is doing less running down the flanks these days as he turns 33 in January, knows Hunt all too well, having been there in the time that the coach has won all of his four league titles – three with SuperSport United and one with Wits.
“He is a coach that has done the hard yards, so I trust he will improve the team,” Klate said.
“We are talking here about a guy who went to Black Leopards some years back when that club was relegation material and got them into the top eight.
“His career has always been like that. Look at his time with Hellenic, Seven Stars and Moroka Swallows.
“I obviously have never been in any of the struggling teams that he has coached until now, but for him to be where he is today, he went through a lot of struggles.
“They say that sometimes life comes full circle, and this is part of it. That’s how it goes.”
When they return from Durban this weekend and focus on pulling up their socks in the league, Klate believes Wits haven’t thrown in the towel on retaining their trophy just yet.
“If you look at the points difference (between Wits and log leaders Baroka FC), I think it’s nothing. An unbeaten run means we can do well in the league this season.
“And I think it’s going to take fewer points to win the league this season.
“But we need to get out of the hole we put ourselves in first. There’s a lot of belief in this team.”