Change in mentality at Wits has provided spur for early season form

BidVest Wits coach Gavin Hunt believes his team are playing no better than in their horror campaign last year despite three wins on the trot. BackpagePix

Bidvest Wits have started the new Absa Premiership season with three wins on the trot, but coach Gavin Hunt says they are playing no better than in their horror campaign last year when the side flirted with relegation.

Wits were league champions in the 2016-17 season, but then had a "meltdown", according to Hunt, before a switch in transfer policy to bring in players who had yet to win trophies, providing the necessary hunger, appears to be bearing fruit.

Wits defeated Orlando Pirates 1-0 away on Wednesday to go with a 3-1 success over Kaizer Chiefs on the road and a 3-0 won at home in their season opener against bogey side Free State Stars.

"We are in the results business and sometimes it's not pretty," Hunt said.

"Everybody thinks they have the prettiest girlfriend or the prettiest wife, but at the end of the day ... you have to get on with it.

"I know this bunch of players, last year they really felt disappointed and their pride was hurt. From the heights we came from, winning three trophies in 12 months ... we even won a trophy last season as bad as we were.

"We are not going to have the frills that everyone looks for, but we are a results-driven team and we did very well in the first two games especially."

Hunt blamed last year's failure on a lack of hunger from certain segments of his squad, but he said the necessary desire now had returned.

"Once a player and team loses that desire to win, you're gone. You have to have that passion and that desire. We have tried to get players in that have got a bit of hunger, that haven't won anything, which a lot of the new players haven't.

"We are trying to build a team again. Teams generally work in four-to-five-years cycles, even the best teams in the world. We had a four-year cycle where we went third-third-second-first [in the league]; it is unbelievable for a club of our size.

"Then we won the MTN8 and the Telkom Knockout and we suddenly had a huge meltdown. It happens like that.

"We made some brave decision and let some players go. But we've only played three games; we are still just trying to get to 30 points as quickly as possible."

Hunt said the change in transfer policy came after the brains trust at the club got together to plot a new way forward.

"We have come together and had a good pre-season and a rethink; we had to after last season, which was a debacle. Last year we had 11 points after 15 games, and now we have got nine after three matches.

"It's crazy this game. I don't think we have played any better than last year, but that's how football works.

"We had a think-tank and tried to get in the right players, which is very difficult when you are working in the free agent market, but that's what we have to do."

One of the new signings to impress has been diminutive attacking midfielder Haashim Domingo, who was a product of the Ajax Cape Town youth system and then spent the past few years at Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal.

"Young Haashim ... for me he is the best player since Steven Pienaar to come out of the Ajax academy, but he got lost in the system and players like him can get lost in our national teams, too. It's absolute madness."

Wits will face SuperSport United in another massive early-season test for them on Saturday night, but their failure to qualify for the MTN8 this year means the team then has an 11-day break.

Hunt said that Wits' failure to finish in the top half last season was a personal blow for him, not just because it has robbed his team of valuable early-season matches.

"It's the first time as a player or a coach since 1981 I haven't been in the top eight, so you must know how I feel. I am so upset about it, because I always feel if you can get through that first game, you've got two more to find your squad and your rhythm."