However, the Clever Boys still have to face Chiefs and Pirates
WITS’ shot at redemption has suffered in recent weeks, but with a bit of luck and a string of consistent performances they could still win the PSL title.
The Clever Boys haven’t been so smart in their pursuit of silverware this season, failing to capitalise on their games in hand as they have battled to close in on league leaders Kaizer Chiefs, who have a 10-point lead and have played one game more.
With the league indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, surely that must give Wits enough time to thoroughly strategise on how they will make the most of their remaining nine games, writes Mihlali Baleka
Their season in a nutshell:
Having fallen behind in the title race in the last five matches last season, many would have thought that Wits would know the importance of being consistent throughout a campaign.
But such has been their negligence that they are languishing in the doldrums of uncertainty, considering that even if they win their remaining matches, and the rest of the chasing pack wins theirs, it still wouldn’t be enough to win the championship.
Wits’ advantage, though, comes with the fact that they still have a date with destiny – as they have back-to-back matches against Chiefs, while they still have to face fourth-placed Orlando Pirates. Get maximum points in those matches, and their title aspirations could receive a huge boost.
Wits may still be in the race for the league crown, but maybe it would be more advisable for them to push as high up the standings as they can, while the Nedbank Cup becomes their number one priority. After all, winning the Cup competition guarantees them African football next season.
The African safari is a venture that the team would want to explore more of, having come short this season after crashing out of the Caf Confederation Cup in the group stage following a winless streak with their best results being two draws.
Gavin Hunt has been around the block long enough to know what he needs to do in order for his team to come out victorious, but he is also smart enough to know who his strongest warriors are that can do the job regularly.
Wits’ defensive trio of Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhlebuyeza Mkhwanazi and Sifiso Hlanti have been a solid contingent for years. Such has been their cohesiveness that they have taken their fine form to the national team.
Cole Alexander and his partner Thabang Monare control the spine of the team, allowing Deon Hotto and Elias Pelembe to have a free flow on the flanks. Wits’ struggles have been up front, having failed to find a lethal No 9 as Eva Nga has battled to find his feet at the club.
What they have done right/strengths:
Wits have been good travellers, so much that they’ve bagged more points away than at home. That is why Hunt believes that had it not been for a curse that has engulfed Bidvest Stadium from last season, they would be the reigning champions.
The arrival of defender Lorenzo Gordinho has done little to destabilise the team’s defensive organisation as Wits have been so mean that they have only conceded 17 goals this season – the second-best defensive record in the league.
For those exploits, the defensive unit have been handsomely rewarded – Hlatshwayo, Hlanti and Mkhwanazi were called up for Bafana Bafana’s postponed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe, while goalkeeper Brandon Peterson got his first call-up for South Africa.
What they have done wrong/weaknesses:
There’s a dark cloud that has hung over Bidvest Stadium the last two years, giving opposition teams a sense of belief that they can visit the Braamfontein-based arena and come away with three points.
That dilemma has seen Wits losing matches they should have easily won, something that has seen their pursuit for silverware crumble at times. Apart from losing matches at home, Wits’ biggest problem has been their poor conversion rate.
Cameroonian-born striker Nga has failed to hit the ground running at the club, while injury woes to Gift Motupa and Molahlehi Khunyedi has cost the team dearly.
Hlatshwayo’s role as team captain is undisputed. The Bafana international has led with distinction this season, changing positions and popping up with important goals when his team needs him the most.
For his consistent contribution at club level, Hlatswayo rose to the astute role of being the national team captain, while the big three in SA football – Chiefs, Pirates and Mamelodi Sudowns – are said to be after his services.
So far, though, Wits have hung onto their man, insisting that his way out of the club would be via Europe. But with the close-season transfer window approaching, there is no telling for how long Wits will be able to hold on to “Tyson” amid local interest.
Remaining games for Wits:
Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Maritzburg United, Bloemfontein Celtic and Black Leopards,
AmaZulu, Golden Arrows, Kaizer Chiefs and Polokwane City.
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