JOHANNESBURG - Bongani Khumalo cut a frustrated figure as he left training at Sturrock Park on Monday, angrily kicking the ball away and complaining about a teammate who didn’t do his part.
No one paid attention to his tantrum as this is exactly what Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt wants from his players - the desire to win every contest, even a training match against each other.
Hunt and Khumalo go way back in a relationship littered with success. They won the Absa Premiership three times in a row at SuperSport United, Khumalo was captain in the last two of those titles. The pair added a fourth championship to their list of honours last season at Wits to give the Braamfontein-based club their first league crown in 96 years.
“I want to win everything, (that’s why I was angry after training),” Khumalo said. “It starts at training and translates to the match. Four leagues in five seasons in South Africa, why wouldn’t I be (used to winning and want to win every contest)? If Daine (Klate) is the king of leagues (with six titles), I must be the ratio king.”
His four league winners' medals and every other honour Khumalo has received in his career, including a gold medal he won in athletics as a pupil at Rietondale Primary School in Pretoria, aren’t anywhere in his house. They reside in his late parents’ house so that he doesn’t get carried away with what he has won. Wits need to adopt a similar attitude if they are to retain the Absa Premiership and the MTN8 titles they won last season.
The Clever Boys have had an indifferent start to their season, hardly looking like champions. They will need to shake off that slow-start on Sunday against Cape Town City at Bidvest Stadium in the second leg of the MTN8 semi-finals. The Citizens, who have won all their matches under new coach Benni McCarthy, come to Johannesburg with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.
“It’s still an open game,” Khumalo said. “But it is a sensitive game because they do have that one goal. We need to start getting results. We’ve had a mixed start, something I experienced at SuperSport.
"When you come off the back of a successful season, everyone wants to beat you throughout the season. It’s important for everyone here to understand that and adjust, that this is a new season and our games are going to be different because of the tag we hold as champions.”
Hunt is yet to find a settled starting XI as he has been forced to chop and change the team. The coach is still searching for the right man to partner captain Thulani Hlatshwayo in central defence between Khumalo and Slavko Damjanovic. Khumalo’s advantage is that he knows the local game and did that job with aplomb last season to fill the void left by the injured Buhle Mkhwanazi.
“We need to have calm heads,” Khumalo said. “As much as that aggression is needed to compete and win, we need to have calm heads to manage the game as best as we can. If you look at the goals Cape Town City scored in the two wins over us, they came out of nothing. We need to be switched on for the full game and ensure that we see it through.”