‘‘The worst thing for Phakamani Mhlambi is going to Bafana right now,” says Wits coach Gavin Hunt
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt has never been one to mince his words and he’s set to once again eyebrows after saying his player Phakamani Mahlambi’s selection to Bafana Bafana is the worst thing that could have happened to the teenager’s career right now.
Mahlambi has been called up to the Bafana squad to face Guinea-Bissau in Durban on Saturday and Angola in East London next Tuesday but Hunt is not happy with the timing of the 19-year-old striking prodigy’s selection to the national team.
“The worst thing‚ the worst thing for Phakamani‚ the worst thing‚ is going to Bafana right now‚” a forthright Hunt said in his trademark manner.
“It is not the right thing for him. He needs to stay (at Wits) and do a little bit of training here and get settled again.
‘‘But I mean‚ you know‚ I am happy for the boy. I am just saying if you look at his progress now‚ he needs a little bit of time away from all that stuff and work a little bit.
‘‘This would have been a good week for us to work because we don’t play for two weeks.
‘‘We can work on a lot of things with him but obviously going to the (Bafana) camp they (the national team coaches) are not going to do any work with him. So it is a problem.
‘‘No disrespect to that (the call up to Bafana)‚ I'm just saying‚ you know‚ it (was) important that he (stayed with Wits and improved his game). But be that as it may‚ it's going to happen.”
Hunt said Mahlambi‚ the young tearaway striking prodigy he called the ‘‘best player in South Africa” last year‚ is returning from a serious injury and should have been given more time to settle down at Wits after recovering from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of football for almost a year.
The Wits coach thinks highly of the teenager and went as far as saying last year the club could have won the league title had Mahlambi not been injured.
But the teenager was largely anonymous in Wits’ 0-0 draw with Egyptian powerhouses Al Ahly in an African Champions League match play at BidVest Stadium on Sunday afternoon and Hunt said it is for this very reason that he believes Mahlambi should have stayed behind to work on his game.
‘‘It wasn’t his best in both games (the two Champions League legs against Al Ahly). There are a lot of things going on‚ you know what I mean?
‘‘I’ve got a lot of work there (with Mahlambi) still. I tried to use him to try get behind them (the Egyptians) but even if he got past there must be something. If he played simpler it would have been better.
‘‘But he is a young boy and if you compare him to (Mamelodi Sundowns star Khama) Billiat he is younger. It will take time‚ it will come.”
Given Hunt's feelings about his selection to the national team‚ it will be interesting to see how Mahlambi performs in a Bafana shirt if he plays against Guinea-Bissau and Angola. — TMG Digital