JOHANNESBURG – Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt has started the mind games that will intensify this week leading to their top-of-the-table clash with the reigning Absa Premiership champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, on Saturday at Bidvest Stadium.
The Brazilians and the Clever Boys have been involved in some tense and entertaining duels on and off the pitch.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane once compared Wits to Stoke City, a tough to break down English side that relies on long balls to beat their opponents.
That dig didn’t sit well with the Wits camp. They gladly reminded Mosimane of his utterance after they won the league two seasons ago, arguing that it was a victory of humility over arrogance.
Mosimane responded by saying he knows where the league title is, and it’s a good thing that Milpark is by the freeway as it’ll make things easier when they fetch it - which they did in the last campaign.
The two sides are once again fighting for the championship. Hunt deflected pressure by arguing that Sundowns, who have kept up with Wits despite playing two games less, have an advantage.
“They’re in the pound seat,” Hunt said after guiding Wits to a place in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup by beating Black Leopards 3-2 on penalties in Thohoyandou this week.
Wits made two trips to the Vhembe district in two weeks. Their first trip was last week for the match that was abandoned just before half time due to a heavy downpour.
They had to once again make the long bus ride from Johannesburg to Thohoyandou. Their trip back was more pleasant this time around, with a place in the draw that will be conducted tomorrow night secured.
“It’s easier going to Egypt than coming here, because (going to Egypt) is getting on a plane and flying for seven-eight hours,” Hunt said.
“Here you get on a bus and drive for eight hours, and our bus broke down yesterday (on Sunday). We had to pile everyone out of the bus with our bags and wait on the side of the road.
“It’s easier going to Egypt than coming to Thohoyandou, because you get on an aeroplane and come out on the other side.”
While Hunt is happy with a place in the quarter-finals, he would have preferred to have collected three points instead as he always argues that the league is a true test of a team’s character compared to a cup which offers instant gratification.
“In our situation we are going to try and go on both fronts. We obviously would have liked this to be a league game (where we collected three points), but it is what it is. We’ll take each game as it comes,” Hunt said.
Wits dropped points in their last league game, losing to Highlands Park in Tembisa. The question then becomes, can Wits sustain their place among the pacesetters now that the Holy Grail is within reach?
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Let’s see. We haven’t been good in the last couple of weeks,” Hunt said. “We’ve got an honest bunch of players, that’s the most important thing. We’re an honest team. We’re not the best team but we’re an honest team.
“We can achieve things if we stay true to our values, true to what we’re trying to do and stick together. You’ll be surprised to see how far we can go.”