If Wits were a person - their birthday celebrations on Tuesday to mark turning 96 would have seen Moeneeb Josephs play the role of the drunk uncle whose speech either leaves everyone cringing or thinking.
But there was nothing drunk about Josephs’ passionate plea to his teammates to not let their success go to their heads, but continue to fight like they did last season. That fighting spirit gave the Clever Boys their first championship crown.
The goalkeeping stalwart, who is in his 20th year as a professional, wanted to sober up a Wits’ team that’s drunk on success. A tearful Josephs bemoaned his teammates' lack of passion and hunger, things they need to quickly restore - starting on Wednesday night against Golden Arrows at Bidvest Stadium, if they are to retain the league.
“It’s good that we have a squad like this but we need to show it on match days You can’t look at the names that we have (and expect that things will just fall for us) but we must show the effort,” Wits’ midfielder Granwald Scott said.
The Clever Boys boast a strong squad that’s fit to challenge and retain the title. But that squad hasn’t looked like champions, losing without putting much of a fight to see even Bidvest Stadium lose its powers as a fortress where last season’s achievement was built on.
“It’s early days,” Scott said. “We still don’t have a set back four just yet (with Buhle Mkhwanazi still recovering from injury). We have had to change it a few times. Bongani (Khumalo) came in at central defence, then Slavko (Damjanovic) came and replaced him. It’s things like that that have hurt us. I think that it’s a bit of an issue at the moment.
"But we have a few games to work on that, hopefully we get the right combination soon. It’s been an unfortunate start for us even though we are playing good football, putting teams under pressure but the goals are just not going in. But I have a feeling that as soon as we start scoring regularly, we will keeping going up.”
Wits’ problems go beyond them failing to find the back of the net regularly. Their defence, which was the second best last season, has lost its toughness. Only Sifiso Hlanti and captain Thulani Hlatshwayo have survived from last season's consistent back four.
Nazeer Allie and Mkhwanazi lost their places through injuries, opening space for Reeve Frosler who has been solid at left-back but Khumalo and Damjanovic are yet to click with Hlatshwayo in central defence.
The midfield has also seen a number of changes from last season. Scott has been critical of his form, arguing that he isn’t 100% fit just yet and needs to bring more to the club.
“It’s been up and down so far,” Scott said.
“I can add more to the team, be more fitter and go forward a bit more to try and score, which I haven’t been doing that much. It would mean a lot if I, and other defensive players, pitched in with goals.”