ATTERIDGEVILLE – Bidvest Wits finally looked like the Absa Premiership champions that they are, thumping SuperSport United 4-1 in their own backyard in a come-from-behind win on Saturday evening.
The Clever Boys put on the same fighting spirit that drove them to end an almost century-long wait for the club to be South African champions.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori had a slight advantage in the seesaw battle in the first half, but Wits returned with more drive and energy to take full control of the match in the second half to register their third win in four matches.
This result pushed SuperSport’s harmless supporters to the edge.
A handful of them left the stands to stand in front of the perimeter fence that surrounds the pitch to let coach Eric Tinkler have it.
A few of them chanted “Tinkler must go” after Thulani Hlatshwayo sealed the humiliation with his powerful header.
Wits won an intense battle that brought out the best of the two clubs’ workhorses in a match that required more grafting than fancy footwork.
Edwin Gyimah, Hlatshwayo and James Keene put on a shift-and-a-half for the Clever Boys, while Dean Furman and Teboho Mokoena worked tirelessly for Matsatsantsa.
It was never going to be pretty because of the uncomfortable positions these two teams find themselves on, at the bottom half of the log closer to last-placed Platinum Stars instead of chasing log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
It’s a huge downgrade for teams who share the two trophies that were on offer in the first half of the season and ended the last campaign with three of the four trophies on offer among themselves.
With such an appetite for winning, it must be a crushing sight to see how things have turned for the worse.
The desire to change the situation was evident on Saturday night. It was a bruising war that required a lot of pampering for the bodies that were put on the line.
The drive to not lose even the smallest of contests put Wits on the back foot after captain Hlatshwayo handled the ball in the box when trying to clean up a scramble. Hlatshwayo’s opposite number, Furman, stepped up and put the hosts ahead.
The Matsatsantsa skipper even pulled some dance moves, the closest this match came to being flashy in a workmanlike shift.
That celebration lasted for a few seconds as SuperSport still had a lot to do before they show off their dance moves like they did last year, to a point that a song and a dance move was named after Thuso Phala.
But it was the visitors who started the second half with their best foot forward.
Gabadinho Mhango did in two minutes what Lehlohonolo Majoro couldn’t do in 45 minutes: beat Reyaad Pieterse.
Gavin Hunt’s second-half substitution, bringing in Mhango for Majoro, proved to be a masterstroke, with the Malawian not only levelling things for Wits, but also troubling SuperSport’s defenders with his pace.
Mhango’s energy rubbed off on his teammates who had an extra spring in their bounce.
Keene made it two from a corner kick before Daylon Claasen produced a wonder-struck to leave the hosts shell-shocked and wishing they had put Wits to the sword when they had them against the wall.
That’s been the story of SuperSport since losing the Caf Confederation Cup, lacking the bite that almost made them continental champions.