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27 May 2017 21:35 (South Africa)
Wired World

Wits are champions after 96-year wait

  • AFP
    AFP
  • Wired World

Wits became South African champions Wednesday for the first time in their 96-year history by defeating Polokwane City 2-0 in the penultimate round.

England-born James Keene gave the "Clever Boys" a fourth-minute lead at home and veteran Daine Klate scored a second goal after 60 minutes on a cold Johannesburg night.

Second-place Mamelodi Sundowns were held 2-2 at home in Pretoria by Maritzburg United in a match staged simultaneously and ended the round four points adrift.

Wits have 60 points, Sundowns 56 and Cape Town City 55 after the most exciting South African Premiership title race.

Formed in 1921, Wits have won the South African FA Cup and the League Cup twice and another knockout competition three times, but championship glory has proved elusive.

Having steered SuperSport United to three consecutive league titles, coach Gavin Hunt joined Wits in 2013 and delivered two third-place finishes and a second before reaching the summit.

Usually a man with plenty to say, Hunt battled to keep his eyes dry and speak after succeeding Sundowns as winners of the 10 million rand ($760,000, 680,000 euros) first prize.

"A tremendous amount of hard work has finally paid off," he said. "When I arrived here I did not believe the then squad was good enough to win the league.

"I began to overhaul it, but it takes time to build a league-winning squad and I am grateful for the patience and belief my bosses showed in me. 

"This morning, Wits legends from years gone by phoned me and wished the team well. That was so encouraging for us -- we knew we were not alone.

"Winning the title is a great achievement given that we suffered a lot of serious injuries during the season.

"We believe in and trust youth at Wits and those youngsters who came in to fill gaps did a magnificent job."

Wits have struggled in African competitions and failed to make the group stages of the CAF Champions League or CAF Confederation Cup this year.

But Hunt said solitary-goal aggregate losses to Egyptian sides Al Ahly and Smouha offered hope of a better showing in the 2018 Champions League.

"That is where we want to get to -- challenging for South African and African titles," stressed the 52-year-old former top-flight full-back.

Like all Premiership clubs, Wits have their share of "imports", including Keene, Malawian Frank Mhango, Mozambican Elias Pelembe, Zimbabwean Cuthbert Malajila and Botswanan Mogakolodi Ngele.

At the other end of the table, five clubs remain in danger of being relegated going into the final round on May 27. DM

  • AFP
    AFP
  • Wired World

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