CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City will shed a few tears when influential captain and central defender Robyn Johannes joins Wits next season, but it’s just as important to remember the Cape club is fully prepared for his departure.
While Johannes’ position in central defence will be filled by the promising 24-year-old Kwanda Mngonyama, the captain’s armband will fit snugly around the upper arm of impressive Bafana Bafana right-back Thami Mkhize. The 29-year-old Mkhize comes off yet another top-class season for City.
Supremely consistent, he is always one of the most reliable performers. With Johannes already packing his bags for his imminent move to Gauteng - he is suspended and won’t play in City’s final game of the season against AmaZulu in Durban on Saturday - Mkhize will skipper the team.
It’s no secret that City coach Benni McCarthy is a huge fan of the right-back. A few months after his arrival as coach, he spoke glowingly about Mkhize and the possibility that the player should be considered by Bafana.
It wasn’t long in coming - Mkhize’s performances bashed the national team door down and he made his Bafana debut in October last year in a 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso at FNB Stadium. No doubt, going forward, he remains uppermost in the plans of Bafana coach Stuart Baxter.
Now, as City look to finish the season off on a high against AmaZulu, Mkhize is clear about what he expects from his team on Saturday.
“As we will be playing the last game of the season in Durban, it is important that we do well to maintain our fifth position on the log,” said Mkhize. “Obviously, AmaZulu will be playing with the aim of finishing off their season in the top eight, so the game will be important for both teams.
"But, for us, it is important to close off the season on a high note by securing the points; it will not only keep us where we are on the log, but victory will also place us in high spirits. At the same time, in winning our last game, it will also act as motivation for when we come back next season.”
Mkhize has made tremendous strides over the last two seasons. In reflecting on City’s season, he was honest in his assessment of what was good - and what was not so good.
“We have had ups and downs during the season, but there are positive things that we can learn from,” he said. “For instance, we made it to the MTN8 final at the beginning of the season - and, even though we didn’t win that game, I’m sure the experience we gained was important.
"You have to consider that this season we used some players who have never played in the professional league before and also the fact that we lost key players who made the team stand out and yet we still did well.
“On the other hand, the big problem was that we didn’t take advantage of our chances to score goals and, surely, as a club, that is something we should work on moving forward.
"We have seen our mistakes and we have realised what has prevented us from reaching our target for the season. Now we need to work on ways to rectify these mistakes. We have to start the new season with a clean slate and maintain all the goals we will set for the team.”
Looking to the future, Mkhize was confident that City would continue to make great progress as a club. “What makes me happy is that, as a team, we always want to win everything,” he said.
“We have finished in the top eight again this season - and now, next season, we have to keep working on achieving the goal of challenging for the league and perhaps even winning it. It’s something every player hopes for - to win for his team and also to make history for his club.”