Phumlani Ntshangase and Ben Motshwari, who formed one of the best central midfield pairings last season but were discarded at the start of this campaign, have been slowly proving their worth again at Bidvest Wits.
Motshwari scored in the Clever Boys’ 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates on Thursday. On Sunday afternoon it was Ntshangase’s turn to be the hero, scoring in the 1-0 win over Maritzburg United as the Clever Boys moved a step closer to their first league title.
The goals from Ntshangase and Motshwari played a key role in putting Wits in that position. The pair had to work hard to reclaim their places in the starting XI with Thabang Monare, Xola Mlambo and even Granwald Scott overtaking them in the perking order.
Now that the Absa Premiership trophy is within touching distance for Gavin Hunt, something he was brought to Milpark four years ago to do, the three-time league winning coach is more animated than ever.
He hardly sat down in this match, barking orders and wildly remonstrating when one of his players did something wrong – gesticulating to the bench what is it that he should have done to get a better outcome. Hunt was incensed when Sifiso Myeni won the ball but dilly-dallied with it instead of punishing goalkeeper Virgil Vries who was way off his line.
Hunt’s opposite number, Fadlu Davids, was the opposite. He was calm, enjoying what he was seeing – his young side taking the game to the championship contenders just like they did in their win over Cape Town City. The Team of Choice has been a different side under Davids, playing with a lot of freedom.
Davids knows players like Mlondi Dlamini, Bandile Shandu and Siphesihle Ndlovu intimately, having grown up in the club in front of him. The coach knows the right buttons to press to get the best out of the trio that started at the Team of Choice as ball boys, went through its youth structures until they graduated to the first team. Dlamini has been growing with each game. He slid a brilliant through pass to Kurt Lentjies who couldn’t stretch enough to connect with it.
The pressure of looking to bring the first league title here got the better of Wits players in the first half, aware that they couldn’t slip up against “lowly” Maritzburg. They weren’t as forceful as they were against the Buccaneers. This is something that Hunt needs to address if he is to bring the elusive trophy to the Clever Boys because on Tuesday they face their hoodoo team Free State Stars in Bethlehem and then take on Polokwane City in their penultimate game.
Hunt made his intentions clear, bringing in Phakamani Mahlambi and Scott for Gabadinho Mhango and Myeni at the start of the second half. The Clever Boys played with more intent, and 10 minutes into the second half they were a goal up. Mahlambi won a free-kick, took it and put it on the path of Ntshangase who gave the hosts the lead. This win kept Wits at the summit, three points ahead of Mamelodi Sundowns with three games to go.