Bidvest Wits may be top of the Absa Premiership log and Telkom Knockout defending champions, but Thabang Monare (left) says they can handle the pressure. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Thabang Monare, Bidvest Wits’ dynamic midfielder, has welcomed the burden of being the team to beat in this year’s Telkom Knockout competition. Wits open their title defence tomorrow, away at Goble Park Stadium against their hoodoo team Free State Stars (3.30pm).

“What’s life without pressure? I mean, honestly, in each and every game that we are going to play now, we are the team to beat as far as the Telkom Knockout is concerned,” Monare said. “There’s that bit of pressure but we’ll put that aside and take one game at a time. We'll just apply the same formation we’ve been applying and try to work hard as a team.”

In their last 28 meetings with Ea Lla Koto, Wits have won 11 matches, drawn eight and lost nine. However, the Clever Boys had the last laugh as they were victorious 3-0 at home in their Absa Premiership opener this season. But far from holding onto the the past, Monare thinks this encounter will be a different ball game.

“We played against them (earlier in the season) and they are a team that is willing to fight,” he said. “They give you that fight and if you can’t stand it, then you can’t get out of that place (Goble Park). We’ve been struggling as a team at Goble Park but we now know what to do and I think we are ready to fight.”

After finishing 13th on the PSL log last term, Wits missed out of this season’s first cup competition, the MTN8. That gave them the opportunity to fully focus on making a bright start to the campaign. And so far they’ve delivered as they currently sit atop the log with 17 points from nine matches. Despite most of the credit for that run given to the newcomers, Monare, 29, is convinced they’ve been working collectively as a team.

“The new guys are very important to the team,” he admitted. “They’ve got the ability to hold play for us midfielders so that we can also join in attack. But we have a good squad and that provides a healthy competition within the team. So such competitiveness always keeps one going so that you don’t always have to focus on the last game.”

Personally, Monare has also had a good start to the season. Together with Cole Alexander, they’ve marshalled the Clever Boys’ midfield with ease as they assist both in defence and attack.

The Embalenhle, Mpumalanga-born midfielder’s fine form has seen him only miss one game for the Braamfontein-based club so far, hence some felt he deserved a national call-up in Bafana Bafana’s recent back-to-back Afcon qualifiers against Seychelles. But according to him, when the time is right that call-up will come.

“I believe that the coach of the national team (Stuart Baxter) has his style of play,” Monare said. “Honestly, South Africa is blessed with a lot of good midfielders. I think we (those left out) should believe in the coach and keep looking forward to working for our teams so that one day he can see us. We must always respect the coach’s decision and continue to support the team.”


The Star

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