My opinion, I think they’ve got to be big favourites for the league title this year. I think they’ve really pushed the squad. They’ve got a lot of good players.
GAVIN Hunt will have a handful of protégés in the Orlando Pirates match-day squad that will square off against his Kaizer Chiefs team on Saturday.
The Chiefs coach will experience his first Soweto derby when his charges visit Pirates in the first leg of the MTN8 semi-finals at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Since leaving the hot seat at defunct Bidvest Wits two months ago, Hunt is scheduled to meet some of his former players for the first time.
After Wits were sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at the end of last season, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Deon Hotto, Terrence Dzvukamanja and Thabang Monare joined the Mayfair-based side.
At Pirates, the quadruple joined former Wits teammates, and Hunt’s protégés at the club, Vincent Pule, Ben Motshwari and Gabadinho Mhango.
And that’s why it’s been relatively easy for the fraternity to label the Bucs’ new squad as ‘Wits lite’.
Hunt understands the strong additions that his counterparts have made this season, while he’s stuck with a season-long transfer ban. However, he concedes he knows what lies in wait.
“My opinion, I think they’ve got to be big favourites for the league title this year. I think they’ve really pushed the squad. They’ve got a lot of good players that I know and obviously worked with,” Hunt said.
“They’ve got a very good squad of players. So, what they do now is not for me, so I’ve got to concentrate on what we must do. They are certainly much stronger than they were last season. I know what’s ahead of us and we are looking forward to the game.”
On paper, Chiefs should be more confident of the two teams. They head into the derby after an impressive outing in the DStv Premiership, defeating Chippa United, while Pirates were held to a draw by Stellenbosch.
Hunt, though, is not reading too much into the mid-week results. Instead, he’s adamant that he’ll apply his approach to the match according to its demand, considering a knockout game is all about a result rather than performance.
“We are new at the club, so we’ve got to find out about the players a little bit more every day and every game. And then try to get the way of playing that suits the players that we got, that’s the most important thing,” Hunt said.
Despite a fine line between a league game and a knockout match, Hunt was relatively pleased with his team’s performance against the Chilli Boys, especially after they dusted themselves off following the 3-0 embarrassing defeat to champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Notably, what appeased Hunt and his technical team against Chippa was seeing the young lads – particularly Njabulo Blom and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo – continuing to show flashes of maturity. The 56-year-old coach, though, says he won’t put them under pressure.
“I don’t say a word to the players. I don’t need to say anything to them. I think that’s overrated.
“They are there because they are good enough; concentrate on what they have to do and what they don’t have to do – than anything else,” Hunt explained.