CAPE TOWN – There is no doubt the timeworn adage that football is a team game remains as true as ever.
But, every so now and then, an individual comes along and makes himself almost indispensable to a club. Note the word “almost” – because in the end, no player is bigger than the team.
Such a footballer, though, was captain and central defender Robyn Johannes for Cape Town City. The 31-year-old has already played his last game for the Cape side – he will join Bidvest Wits next season.
City have one game remaining, against AmaZulu in Durban next Saturday, but Johannes is suspended for the clash after picking up a fourth booking in last week’s 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates.
But on reflection, it’s going to be very difficult to watch City without their inspirational skipper. He was the fulcrum on which everything ran; the cog upon which their superb build-up played was founded.
City coach Benni McCarthy, right from the beginning when he took over the job, spoke about wanting to have a central defender comfortable in possession and who could initiate the team’s attacking moves from the back. In Johannes, he found the perfect fit.
McCarthy has been frank about his dealings with Johannes with regard to his move to Wits. He never stood in the defender’s way; he understood that, at the age of 31, a player has to start thinking about life after football, and especially in securing a financial future.
City will miss the former captain’s experience – he has previously played for Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Golden Arrows, Maritzburg United and AmaZulu.
But, in the same way that the Cape side got over the loss of the “almost indispensable” Lebogang Manyama (he left to play in Turkey), so, too, they will eventually adapt to the absence of Johannes.
While the former Bafana Bafana striker is sad to see his captain leave, he is nevertheless upbeat that he already has a ready-made replacement in Kwanda Mngonyama.
Mngonyama, at 24 years of age, is seven years younger than Johannes. He still has a lot to learn and a long way to go, but McCarthy is confident he can inspire the defender on the right track.
Mngonyama arrived at City in January this year - and, while he had been the property of Mamelodi Sundowns, he never saw any game time at the star-studded Pretoria club. As such, he was regularly farmed out on loan to clubs like Wits and Maritzburg United.
McCarthy believes that, with time, Mngonyama will strike up a successful partnership with Taariq Fielies in the heart of the City central defence.
Fielies has already caught the eye this season and was this week included in the preliminary Bafana Bafana squad for the Cosafa Cup.
“Kwanda is a fantastic player,” said McCarthy. “He is big and strong, and I guess he just wasn’t very lucky during his time at Sundowns. Because he hasn’t really played all that much, we’ve brought him along gradually.
“He obviously doesn’t have the experience of Robyn (Johannes), but he is young and will soon get up to the speed and pace of the game. He also has fresher legs and he’s a really aggressive defender.
“I think Kwanda is the perfect replacement for Robyn, and I’m excited to see how his partnership with Taariq (Fielies) goes next season. They are both big, strong lads.”