CAPE TOWN – City coach Benni McCarthy jokingly said that should the club fail to keep their captain Robyn Johannes he would also leave the Citizens.
But this isn’t a laughing matter anymore after Wits confirmed that they have signed the 31-year-old centre-back on a pre-contract that will see him move to Milpark on 1 July. Johannes joins a growing list of key players who have left City in the last five months. Lebogang Manyama left in August last year after completing a move to Turkish side Konyaspor.
Aubrey Ngoma followed and joined Mamelodi Sundowns. Thato Mokeke, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Matthew Sim, Bhongolwethu Jayiya and Given Mashikinya also left in between Manyama and Johannes finding new homes. The question is can City survive this exodus?
The answer so far has been a resounding yes, even though the transition will have a number of speed bumps along the way. The club moved swiftly to replace Manyama and Ngoma, while Johannes’ successor will get the baton from him in the last six months of his contract. The signings City have made aren’t just about plugging the holes, but they are also about preparing for the future.
Kwanda Mngonyama (24) and Masoud Juma (21) were brought to the club with an eye to the future while Bradley Ralani (30) brings much-needed experience having spent seven years in Sweden. The quicker the trio and other newbies settle into the club the better for City who finished the first half of the season in second place despite an inconsistent run.
McCarthy, who replaced Eric Tinkler, will not leave City like he promised he would should Johannes go. Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goalscorer also has his own big shoes to fill following the heights Tinkler reached last season. McCarthy has constantly preached that no one is bigger than the team. He dropped Manyama just before his move to Turkey, arguing that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
City managed without him by marching to the MTN8 final. But their naivety got the better of them in their failure to wrap up a match they led for the better part and played with a man extra for just over half an hour.
Experience is what the club needs most, to build on after their third-place finish from last season, especially being led by a coach who is a novice. What McCarthy lacks in experience, he makes up with passion and status as the only South African with a Uefa Champions League winners medal - something that a number of the club’s upcoming players dream of owning.
City also did okay without Ngoma but when he returned, they were even better. The Cape club lost just one match in the five Ngoma featured in towards the end of the first half of the season. The club scored in all those matches and his contribution made McCarthy gush over his quality.
Replacing such talent is a tough ask, but it shouldn’t be that hard for a team that’s centred on unity rather than individual brilliance.