JOHANNESBURG - Despite exorcising the Free State Stars ghost that haunted them in the Telkom Knockout last season and handing early PSL pacesetters Baroka FC their first defeat this season, Wits’ coach Gavin Hunt doesn’t believe his team has reached a turning point.
The Clever Boys have been a shadow of themselves, sheepishly giving away their MTN8 crown and starting their league title defence poorly.
This has led to the club instilling a media shutdown, not engaging with the media like they promised they would at the start of the season and going as far as cancelling their own press conference at the 11th hour.
This revealed trouble in what should be the club’s best time, reaping the rewards of their record-breaking campaign last season that saw them become South African champions for the first time in almost a century.
On Saturday they had something to celebrate after they beat their hoodoo team, Ea Lla Koto, for the first time in the Telkom Knockout to book a place in the quarter-finals.
The 4-2 win over Stars after extra-time came just after the Clever Boys’ 1-0 victory over Bakgaga in Polokwane last week. This is the first time the Milpark-based team has registered back-to-back wins this season.
“No, I think there is no turning point in football,” Hunt said. “I think that if a team is working hard like we have been working, the shape is good and we are creating opportunities then (things will work out). I don’t think that this is a turning point. Sometimes that’s the way football works, if you understand football. One day you are on top and the other day you are (at the bottom).”
The Clever Boys host Chippa United on Wednesday as they try to move up the league standings.
Wits are third from bottom with eight points from eight matches, one point more than 15th placed SuperSport United who have four games in hand. Only Platinum Stars, who are rooted at the bottom, have had a worse start than the Clever Boys. Wits’ start has called into question the players’ attitude, after the highs of last season.
“Fantastic! Even when we were losing they (the players) have been fantastic,” Hunt said.
"There’s no problem with the players. You read reports (that the players are divided) but you’ve got to write something. It’s crazy. It’s madness. The players have worked their socks off in the good and bad times, and that’s important.”
What about Hunt, how has he handled Wits' poor start to the season?
“Me, I’ve been doing it for 30 years so I handled it. I’ve been in worse situations before. It’s one of those things,” he said.
Wits’ liveliest player upfront, who also leads their scoring charts with four goals, has been the Egyptian forward Ahmed Amr Gamal who has shown glimpses of his class with his clever runs and good touches. Hunt gave an analysis on Gamal that should scare their opponents - that he hasn’t clicked with the team.
“In the Egyptian league, the ball moves faster than the players. Here (in South Africa) the players move faster than the ball, so you have to run here,” Hunt said. “But he’s got the right qualities. I mean he can’t understand English. He looks at me and doesn’t know what I am talking about. I am trying to show him on the training ground that there’s a totally different way of playing here.”