Sport / Phakaaathi / Local Soccer

Jonty Mark
Football Editor
2 minute read
1 Dec 2017
10:32 am

Wits defence ready for Celtic onslaught

Jonty Mark

Buhle Mkhwanazi is delighted to have finally resumed his dynamic central defensive partnership with Thulani Hlatshwayo, just in time for Bidvest Wits' clash with Bloemfontein Celtic in the Telkom Knockout final on Saturday night.

Buhle Mkhwanazi (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Mkhwanazi, who has only just recovered from a serious knee injury, and Hlatshwayo, who has had his own injury and suspension problems this season, played together for the first time in the 2017/18 campaign last weekend, and it seemed fitting that Wits kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw at Maritzburg United.

Wits have had a shambolic start to the defence of their league title, in no small part down to the fact that the centre of their defence has been constantly haunted by a Hlatshwayo or Mkhwanazi-sized hole.

“A centreback partnership is vital,” said Mkhwanazi this week.

“You need to understand each other … if we can keep more clean sheets we are guaranteed to get something, whether it is three points, a point, or winning a cup match. In the game we played now (against Maritzburg) we did well.”

Wits, indeed, had their whole regular back four together for the first time last weekend, with Nazeer Allie also returning from injury at rightback. Midfielders Daylon Claasen and Ben Motshwari are also available again for the cup final after injury, while striker Gabadinho Mhango is back after serving a six-game ban.

If there is an excuse for Wits’ awful start to the Absa Premiership season, it is a spate of injuries, and Mkhwanazi puts that down as the reason why they lost 1-0 to Celtic in Mangaung on October 1.

“We never had players, we never had several of our team, we had players playing out of position, playing where they were not used to. Now everyone is back, so we are looking forward to this match and hopefully we can deliver.”

Mkhwanazi and Hlatshwayo could even make an impact at the other end of the field tomorrow. Both certainly scored key goals for their side last season.

“We are looking forward to trying to score more and to helping the guys up front,” added Mkhwanazi.