JOHANNESBURG - Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt argues that the Clever Boys have been a victim of their own success, which is why they went from champs to chumps in a short space of time.
To remedy that, Hunt has set his players the target of making history this year - reach the group stage of the CAF Champions League for the first time. The Clever Boys made history last year by winning the league after an almost century wait. Hunt believes that their participation in the Champions League, and the squad rotation helped them win the league.
Wits gave the continental competition their all, moving away from fielding fringe players like they have done in the past. They didn’t reach the group stage because they were not good enough, and it didn’t help their course that they had to get past the mighty Al-Ahly.
This year the draw has been kind to Wits. They host Pamplemousses next week before travelling to Mauritius for the second leg the week after. Should Wits get past Pamplemousses, they’ll face either Clube Desportivo 1º de Agosto of Angola or Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum in the last round of qualifiers before the group stage. The Champions League comes at a good time for Wits, with the club having weathered the storm that saw them flirt with relegation at one point. The Clever Boys thumped SuperSport United 4-1 at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday to continue their resurgence.
“Reaching the group stage of the CAF Champions League has got to be our next step as a club,” Hunt said. “This is a small club. This isn’t a (Kaizer) Chiefs, (Orlando) Pirates or (Mamelodi) Sundowns. This is a small, small club. People mustn’t forget that. The success we’ve had is unbelievable and that’s why we had a wobble and a shock, hopefully we can maintain this good run and go through in the Champions League.
"We have big hurdles to come. We have the Nedbank Cup and CAF to come. We’ve won one trophy already (the Telkom Knockout). We’ve won three trophies in 15 months, and now everybody’s got a little bit of a shock. It looks like they have woken up a little bit now. But it’s a long, long way to go (before we get to where we want to be).”
League title contenders Chiefs will give Wits a good workout on Saturday at Bidvest Stadium before the Clever Boys represent the country in the Champions League.
Amakhosi are just five points behind leaders Sundowns with 11 matches to go while Wits aren’t even part of that conversation thanks to their woeful title defence. But they could have a say on who takes that trophy from them as they’ll take on Amakhosi, Cape Town City, Orlando Pirates and the Brazilians in their remaining matches.
“I have always said it’s harder to be at the bottom than the top,” Hunt said. “If you’re at the top like we were the year before, the year before that and the year even before that - it’s easier. You play with less stress. We have been playing with a lot of stress.”