Wits coach Gavin Hunt breathing a big sigh of relief
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt is relieved at the timely return of his “rock” back four ahead of Saturday’s Telkom Knockout final against Bloemfontein Celtic at Durban’s Princess Magogo Stadium.
After months of struggle in central defence for Wits in their worst start in the Premier Soccer League‚ and the worst by any champions‚ they kept a fourth clean sheet in succession in their 0-0 away league draw against Maritzburg United on Saturday.
If that statistic is a sign that Wits’ strength winning the PSL last season – a rock-solid defence – is stabilising after a poor start this campaign‚ then having their 2016-17 back four together again for the first time in 2017-18 should result in more clean sheets to come.
Nazeer Allie at right-back‚ Buhle Mkhwanazi and captain Thulani Hlatshwayo in the middle and Sifiso Hlanti at left-back‚ in front of goalkeeper Darren Keet‚ will be a difficult wall for Celtic to breach on Saturday.
Allie‚ Mhwanazi and Hlatswayo are among injury concerns to have returned for Wits in the last three weeks‚ with more in the past week‚ as the Clever Boys enter the final as close to full strength as they have been this season.
“We’ve got a few back. We’ve got [Daylon] Claasen‚ Gabadinho [Mhango]‚ Ben Motswari. They’re all training‚” Hunt said.
“But I mean‚ do I play them? Those are the things we’re going to have to discuss and think about.
“Because it’s a one-off game and do you put those guys back in.
"They are an integral part of us and do give us legs and pace‚ which we haven’t had in this whole first round.
“Steven [Pienaar] played on Saturday. So that adds another one.
"Before that the team picked itself‚ now you have to pick a team again – which is good.
“At least the defence is back – it was the first game in 16 matches that we’ve had our whole defence playing.
“To have ‘Tyson’ [Hlatshwayo]‚ Buhle‚ Allie and Hlanti all playing that gives us our rock‚ our strength of our team.”
The final in KwaMashu‚ north of Durban‚ will be Wits’ second meeting against Celtic this season. The Clever Boys lost 1-0 in a league match in Bloemfontein on October 1.
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