Ben Motshwari is hoping to make a big impact at Orlando Pirates during after his move from Wits. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Ben Motshwari says watching Bidvest Wits  mostly from the sidelines  capitulate during their Absa Premiership title last season, especially after he’d helped the club create history to win the championship for the first time in 96 years, didn’t break him.

But that  along with his seemingly frosty relationship with coach Gavin Hunt  did make it easier for him to pack his bags as soon as his contract was up, and to join Orlando Pirates as a free agent.

Motshwari, a hard-working midfielder who is also extremely versatile, was among the unsung heroes for the Clever Boys when they clinched the Premier League trophy during the 2016-17 campaign, only to find himself kicking his heels in the stands a few months later.

“I can’t really tell you why I was not playing, maybe that is a question you should ask them (Wits),” was Motshwari’s first response this week when he was asked why he thinks he spent so much time on the bench.

But it didn’t take long before he opened up  revealing that he never got an explanation from Hunt why he was used sparingly, went from hero to zero, and wasn’t told where he needed to improve to break into the starting line-up.

Motshwari only filled in when there were injuries, and thanks to his versatility he was able to be cover at centre-back, right-back and defensive midfield.

“For any player who goes on to win the league with the team this season and then the next one, all of a sudden, you are not playing  that is surprising,” he said. “Regardless of who comes in and who goes out, you made history at the club. I won’t say this killed me, but rather a motivation to say I have to work hard in every step that I take in my career. Being used in different positions did not confuse me. There are so many versatile players in the world and that was a bonus for me because it meant if a defender was injured I would be called to fill the space. Those are my capabilities.”

Wits finished 13th on the log table, fighting hard to move away from the bottom of the log, where they were during Christmas.

How Hunt was managing his players was consistently questioned as the reigning champions looked out of sorts and surrendered their title - sheepishly so - to Mamelodi Sundowns.

Motshwari laughed when asked whether his ex-team-mates would have received the same cold shoulder from Hunt, and therefore causing the confusion that seemed to sum up their awful season.

“Personally, it was sad for me to spend so much time on the bench. Whoever played in that season deserved to play  they were winning some games and losing others. Some questions I just can’t answer. They (Wits) can answer them (better). My previous coach is one of a kind. He always encourages players to work hard, but he never said a word to me during this time. It was emotional for me. It would have been nice to hear him say ‘Come on my boy, you can do better’.

"But things like that happen sometimes. I could see that my lack of game time meant I was not in his plans. It was tough and sad,” the player explained.

Motshwari hopes being at Pirates will bring about a new lease of life for him, and hopefully more trophies as he has joined a team determined to end a four-year drought and live up to its stature as a giant of South African football.

“I am here to add value,” said Motshwari, who will be hoping to make his debut tonight in their Premier League opener at home against Highlands Park.

“I was meant to sign for Pirates two seasons ago, but I guess it fell through. I don’t know why, but at least I am here now.”


Saturday Star

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