Bidvest Wits will begin their MTN8 title defence against Golden Arrows on Friday, and Goal takes a look at how the current crop of Students fare against last year’s triumphant team which won both the MTN8 as well as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title.
Despite being domestic champions, Wits have not rested on their laurels and have signed several high-profile players ahead of the new season.
One of the key elements of Wits’ success last season was coach Gavin Hunt’s ability to blend youth with experience.
The four-time PSL winning coach knew how to get the best out of his players and was able to utilise the experience of the likes of Nazeer Allie, Moeneeb Josephs and Daine Klate to take them over the line, but at the same time, he had the flamboyance and tenacity of players such as Phakamani Mahlambi, Gabadinho Mhango and Reeve Frosler to count on.
However, going into the new season the Clever Boys are arguably a stronger outfit. They have brought in top class European experience in former South African captain Steven Pienaar and midfielder Daylon Claasen.
Wits have also bolstered their defence with the capture of Montenegrin defender Slavko Damjanovic which will come as welcome competition for a defensive backline which consists of Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Bongani Khumalo, as well as competition for Sifiso Hlanti with the signing of Thato Thlone.
Nevertheless, one position which Wits’ could consider themselves thin on is with their attacking options. Hunt lost two important figures in Cuthbert Malajila and Mogakolodi Ngele after Wits opted against making their loan deals permanent due to their hefty fee and the duo subsequently returned to their parent club, Mamelodi Sundowns.
Chances are also great that Mahlambi could be on his way out after impressing on trial at Portuguese Primeira Liga side Vitoria de Guimaraes although Hunt may have already found a replacement for the starlet in another rising talent in Kobamelo Kodisang.
The playmaker is only 17-years old and brings with him that youthful exuberance and ambition which could hold him in good stead in Braamfontein, and together with Wits’ latest signing in Anthony Gordinho, they could potentially play a big role this season.
Nonetheless, Wits will once again carry the favourites tag into the new season, and who will bet against them retaining their title with such a formidable squad at their disposal?
It should be noted that Wits are yet to find a striker which will contribute at least 10-15 goals a season which could be the difference if the 2017/2018 season goes down to the wire.