Bidvest Wits upset the odds and won their first ever league title in style on Wednesday night.
If someone had said the Students will be crowned PSL champions with a game to spare at the start of the season, not many would have believed it.
This is due to the fact that they never really went all out in the transfer market, and in addition to that, they sold their star player, Sibusiso Vilakazi to Mamelodi Sundowns.
However, Gavin Hunt had other ideas. He was in the same situation during his days at SuperSport United – he sold the likes of Katlego Mphela, Katlego Mashego and Teko Modise, who were his top players at the time but still managed to win three league titles in a row.
The writing was on the wall from day one when they knocked Orlando Pirates out of the MTN8 on their way to clinching their first major trophy under the tutelage of Hunt that this team had ambitions.
They also beat Kaizer Chiefs in the first round, and got some important results against their title rivals. That created a sense of belief among the players. It is worth noting that Hunt had a group of players who played together for the first time, but they quickly adapted to his style of play and were ready to play as a team.
Hunt created an atmosphere where everyone knew that if they were prepared to work hard and fight as a team, they will get a fair chance of playing for the club.
The younger players added flame to the squad, while his seasoned players provided guidance and worked toward the team’s objectives and goals.
Frank Mhango and Thabang Monare were constantly present, and if Hunt didn't use them wisely, the team wouldn't be where it is. Mhango scored important goals that kept Wits in the race, and when those goals dried up, he didn't stop working his socks off, and Hunt kept faith in him.
Monare, despite being small in stature, proved to the whole country that dynamites come in small packages, as he gave his seniors a good run for their money in the middle of the park and scored some crucial goals in the process.
Because of how influential Hunt is, the likes of Siboniso Gaxa, Nazeer Allie, Eleazar Rodgers, Daine Klate and Elias Pelembe never got time to be complacent – previous success sometimes breeds complacency and Wits never show signs of that throughout the season - even when they looked likely to win the title.
While some blamed injuries and suspensions to key players this season, Hunt kept calm despite facing the same challenges. He made no excuses, because he knew what he was working on. He used what he had at his disposal and that paid off.
Only once did he mention missing Sibusiso Vilakazi, but the team soldiered on because he had a group of players capable of achieving success without Vila’s help.
Wits started the season without teen sensation Phakamani Mahlambi, while James Keene returned at the beginning of the year to strengthen the striking department, and those who were playing before the duo returned, did not sulk when they were relegated to the bench.
Instead, they supported one another and pushed those who were playing to always be at their best. This means the level of competiveness was high at all times, and the players should be applauded for that.
The same can be said about their two experienced goalkeepers, who remained professional throughout. Moeneeb Josephs was their No.1 goalkeeper at the start of the campaign, but Darren Keet took over and never looked back.
That alone gave the players enough time to rest and it helped them rediscover form as well as the hunger required to win at all costs.
Furthermore, they turned the Bidvest Stadium into a fortress, beating almost every team there, including Pirates and Sundowns in the past few weeks. If you don’t win your home games, then you are most likely to miss out on the title.
Lastly, Hunt and Wits never allowed external forces to disrupt their season. The 52-year-old was linked with the Bafana Bafana coaching job on so many occasions between December and March, but that never got into him or his players as he continued to build the empire everyone is seeing today.
Focus, hard work, experience, team spirit and winning games got the Students this far, and at this rate, they are likely to add to their already impressive trophy cabinet in the next few seasons.