Wits need to find a way to win at home
JOHANNESBURG – Bidvest Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo reckons being the only team that plays regular competitive football due to catch-up games has prevented them from consistently keeping up with the chasing pack.
After qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup group stages for the first time, where they had to travel between South Africa, Guinea, Kuwaiti and Mali, Wits were forced to play their domestic league campaign in patches.
However, with their continental campaign done and dusted - after failing to progress to the knockout stage of the competition - Wits are faced with the mammoth task of playing catch-up games in the league, where they’ve been unconvincing, recently bagging four points out nine.
That form sees them fifth on the log standings with 34 points, 11 points behind pacesetters Kaizer Chiefs, who’ve played two games more.
“It (playing the catch-up games) does have an impact mentally because when you look at the game that was postponed against Black Leopards, we were playing at home and where we eat is closer to the stadium, so we didn’t have to use the bus,” Hlatshwayo said.
“As you walked to the stadium, you could see Ernst (Middendorp, the Kaizer Chiefs coach), Orlando Pirates’ coach (Josef Zinnbauer), a lot of players from other clubs and analysts.
“There were also few bookings, including myself, meaning that we’d miss the Pirates game (in the Nedbank Cup last 32) if we got bookings.”
He continued: “Obviously knowing that you are the only team that’s playing you’d wish that other teams didn’t get a result.
“But the pressure is there especially knowing that it’s a catch-up game. But when you are all playing, and we play at three o’clock, we tell ourselves to win the game and see how other teams will do at night.”
The Clever Boys may be far from their best in their bid to turn the games in hand into points in the bag but that’s been a result of their poor run of form at Bidvest Stadium, having only bagged one point in the last two matches at home.
“In order for us to stay up there with the chasing pack, we need to get the results at home. It looks like we are good travellers, having gotten a lot of points away than we’ve done here at home,” Hlatshwayo said.
“We just have to take the motivation when we won the league (three seasons ago) because then we won all of our home games.”
Wits’ target to start turning Bidvest Stadium into a fortress heading into the final stretch of the season begins tomorrow night when they host Chippa United in the last 16 of the South African premier club knockout competition.
Get a win there, and the Clever Boys would have taken a huge step towards winning a double, the league and Nedbank Cup, both of which guarantees a spot in continental football through the Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
“We are disappointed with the result in the league game. So, it’s important for us to bounce back because we haven’t been playing well at home. But against Chippa, there must be a winner and we are hoping to use the experience that we got in Africa,” Hlatshwayo concluded.@Mihlalibaleka