JOHANNESBURG – Honestly, Bidvest Wits rode their luck to win the Telkom Knockout in December.
They needed a whole lot more here on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Nedbank Cup to eliminate Cape Town City, opponents who are turning out to be their bogey side in some respects.
Wits again dominated the 90 minutes, similarly to the three previous times they have faced off with coach Benni McCarthy’s outfit already this season, but couldn’t find the goal posts and went on to lose 1-0.
During a bad spell, which pushed them to the bottom of the Premier League table by the halfway mark – confirming once and for all that defending their title would be impossible – Wits were able grind out results to go all the way in the Telkom Knockout, narrowly beating Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 in one of the worst cup finals you will ever see.
Their recent form suggests they have turned the corner somewhat, especially when you look at how they dismantled recent CAF Confederation Cup finalists SuperSport United a few weeks ago – humbling them 2-0 at Bidvest Stadium and then coming from behind to humiliate them 4-2 in their own backyard.
Even against Kaizer Chiefs here at the weekend, the Clever Boys dug deep to claw their way back into the match and earn a point in their 1-1 draw with Steve Komphela’s Glamour Boys.
They have well and truly shown “passion and desire”, words used by their coach Gavin Hunt in describing their resurgence, in the second half of the campaign.
They were no different against City in this “Cup of dreams” – but it wasn’t their night.
And perhaps this is a bit of a mental thing.
McCarthy remains unbeaten against his teacher Hunt, the man who launched his career way back when, the former Bafana Bafana striker aged just 17 when he made his top-flight debut in South African football.
City brushed aside Wits in the opening league game of the 2017/18 season at this venue, shocked them 1-0 in Cape Town in the first leg of the MTN8 and then stuck the knife in one more time in the return leg by winning 2-1.
No doubt the Wits players would have been thinking about those results in the build-up, but were caught by a sucker punch as early as the second minute on Wednesday.
Matthew Rusike, making his debut for new club City following his arrival on deadline day last week, connected sweetly with a typically good Teko Modise cross.
As soon as the ball landed on the striker’s head from midfield genius Modise’s boot, goalkeeper Darren Keet had zero chance of keeping the ball out.
That was really the visitors’ best moment of the game as they were under siege from Wits from that moment onwards.
Both McCarthy and Hunt were animated in the dug-out, but “student” had managed to get one over the “teacher” yet again.
That means that Wits don’t have anything else to play for in the domestic league this season, other than having a say in where the league title might go, given their upcoming fixtures against log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and second-placed Orlando Pirates in the title run-in.