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Local News 18.5.2017 10:52 am

Hunt finally over for Gavin

Gavin Hunt, coach of Bidvest Wits (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Gavin Hunt, coach of Bidvest Wits (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Gavin Hunt battled to keep his eyes dry and speak after succeeding Mamelodi Sundowns as winners of the R10-million rand first prize.

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.

READ: Wits are the Absa Premiership champions

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

“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.

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