JOHANNESBURG - Thulani Hlatshwayo proved on Monday why it is usually all hands on deck towards the business end of a gruelling PSL campaign - one that the Bidvest Wits skipper is confident they can win.

It’s not just the coach’s responsibility to galvanise the team in their hope to win the club’s first ever championship, hence defender Hlatshwayo has been doubling up as a motivator. Wits host Golden Arrows tonight and are determined to move to the top of the standings with victory. 

The squad has needed a pick-me-up following two unflattering results last week when they were knocked out of the Nedbank Cup by Jomo Cosmos on Tuesday and held to a goalless draw by a tired looking Smouha outfit in the first leg of their Caf Confederation Cup play-off.

Before that, Wits managed a 2-0 win over Platinum Stars, but Hlatshwayo admitted that it was far from convincing with the players having been affected by the international break.

“I spoke to the coach about that game just trying to find out what is the best way to try and make sure we are better when we return from national team duty,” said the captain, who wasn’t sharp enough himself, having picked up an ankle injury that ruled him out of Bafana Bafana’s friendly against Angola.

Hlatshwayo said he also took it upon himself to have private conversations with some of his teammates who were at the receiving end of coach Gavin Hunt’s wrath following a shock Cup exit last week.

“We need everyone at this stage of the season, and I think that is why the coach was giving players a run in the Nedbank Cup and in our game against Smouha,” said Hlatshwayo. “I was rested in our previous two games and it was important for whoever came in to step up. They didn’t, and you can understand why the coach was not happy. But I asked the guys not to be too discouraged.”

That is what captains do - often the middle man between the coach and the rest of his squad. "Tyson", as Hlatshwayo is also known as, has in recent times gone above and beyond, becoming a scorer of crucial goals and picked up the PSL Player-of-the-Month award for March on Monday.

“It’s coach Gavin who has unleashed the beast in me,” he said. “When I left Ajax I didn’t think I had the leadership qualities, and now my game has also evolved. I have scored four goals this season and hopefully I can get more.”

Pushed for comment on Wits’ contrasting fortunes between this season and last year, where the Clever Boys ran out of steam and finished runners-up to Mamelodi Sundowns, the skipper pointed to experience.

“We don’t want to go through that again,” Hlatshwayo said. “Just the other day we were joking about how the club finished third two seasons ago and in second place last year, and it is obvious what the answer should be about where to finish this year. We have even learnt our lessons from other teams as well, who did not pick up points from having games in hand. What is important for us is to win our games, especially home games. You can’t come to my house and disrespect me.”

The Star