Gavin Hunt gearing for his 750th match as a coach in South African football
Coach Gavin Hunt will reach a notable milestone when he leads his BidVest Wits side in their league clash away at Polokwane City on Saturday‚ a fixture that will mark his 750th as a coach in South African football.
The four-time league champion completed his full haul of domestic trophies by claiming the Telkom Knockout this past weekend‚ and will now seek to move Wits off their surprise position at the bottom of the log at fellow strugglers Polokwane.
Only Gordon Igesund (816) has taken charge of more games in South African top-flight football‚ a record Hunt will likely pass in the next few seasons if he stays within the local game and Igesund continues his project at third-tier Santos.
Hunt started his top-flight career at Seven Stars in the 1998/99 season having helped them win promotion‚ before moving the club he represented as a player‚ Hellenic‚ that same campaign.
He stayed with the Greek Gods until 2001 when he enjoyed an unlikely ‘marriage’ that really put him on the map.
He took another newly-promoted side Black Leopards‚ to eighth in the Premier League‚ despite having virtually no training facilities‚ a feat that won him the first of his Coach of the Year prizes.
“I don’t need to tell you that Gavin is a very good coach‚ just look at what he has achieved‚” Leopards owner David Thidiela tells TimesLIVE.
“Even though he was just a young man‚ he quickly became like a father-figure to my players‚ who were very young themselves.
“He is a good man‚ everybody here respected him very much. He has his own principles too and always put so much effort into everything‚ training‚ planning‚ all of it.
“He worked very hard‚ even if he was sick he would be out there‚ planning and training. He led by example and everybody followed.”
Hunt was snapped up by Moroka Swallows the following season and Thidiela says it is a major regret for him that he could not keep his coach.
“Teams came here with some big money and I couldn’t afford to keep him.
"I was very disappointed to lose him‚ but that is football.
"We still speak from time to time and I still respect him so much. I wish I could afford to bring him back to Leopards!”
Hunt spent the next five seasons at Swallows‚ never finishing below fifth in the league and winning the Absa Cup as he continued to forge his reputation and was eventually signed by SuperSport United to take over from Pitso Mosimane‚ who went to Bafana Bafana on a fulltime basis.
It was there that he first worked with CEO Jose Ferreira as Hunt won the league title in each of his first three years at the club‚ and would later add the Nedbank Cup in 2012.
He won three more Coach of the Year titles for his league triumphs‚ before following Ferreira to Wits in 2013.
His six seasons at SuperSport remains‚ to date‚ the longest spell in charge of a side by any coach other than Cosmos owner Sono.
After initially battling for silverware at Wits as he built a competitive squad‚ Hunt has claimed the league title‚ MTN8 and Telkom Knockout all in a little over 12 months.
Ferreira says that what drives the former full-back to be successful‚ apart from his obvious ability‚ is his unwavering passion for the game.
“He is incredibly demanding of himself and of his players‚” Ferreira says.
“Never mind what I have to say‚ just look at his record‚ he has also produced more South African Footballers of the Year than any other coach.
“And I will tell you as well‚ those very same players‚ once they leave Gavin they never reach the same levels.
"The pinnacle of their careers is under Gavin and that shows how he drives them and how he drives himself to make them better.
“To me he is the best coach in the country by far‚ he has his weaknesses like everybody else‚ he is a human being‚ but just look at what he has achieved.
“I have spent the best part of eight years of my career working with Gavin and we have been through everything‚ good days and the bad days‚ but through that all‚ Gavin never changes‚ his passion is always there.”