ANALYSIS | Could a Gavin Hunt-led Kaizer Chiefs/Bidvest Wits hybrid team end Sundowns dominance?

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Gavin Hunt being unveiled as the new Kaizer Chiefs head coach.
Gavin Hunt being unveiled as the new Kaizer Chiefs head coach.
Kaizer Chiefs
  • Gavin Hunt has been appointed as the new head coach of Kaizer Chiefs and will be aiming to adding a number of former Bidvest Wits players to strengthen his squad for next season.
  • Rumours had been circulating as early as the end of 2019 that Ernst Middendorp would not be continuing as head coach.
  • Mamelodi Sundowns' flurry of signings points to Pitso Mosimane becoming aware early of Hunt's imminent appointment at Chiefs and reacting by making numerous signings.

With the blockbuster announcement of Gavin Hunt's appointment as head coach of Kaizer Chiefs it could arguably be described as the most significant event in modern South African football history.

The images of Gavin Hunt pictured alongside Kaizer Motaung signing his contract seemed as if one had awoken in an alternate universe.

But in reality what we are witnessing are two already powerful forces joining together to take aim at finally ending Mamelodi Sundowns' era of dominance.

Hunt's appointment brought to an end a tumultuous few weeks for the four-time Absa Premiership winners after suddenly finding himself without a job after the sale of Bidvest Wits.

The Soweto giants moved swiftly in recruiting Hunt in a chess move that could prove to have huge significance not only at Naturena, but for a number of teams throughout the league.

Chiefs are undoubtedly now taking aim at finally ending Mamelodi Sundowns' unprecedented period of dominance.

Here Sport24 theorises how a hybrid team consisting of a combination of Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits players could soon topple Sundowns:

Even at the height of Ernst Middendorp's success at the start of the season in picking up three consecutive Coach of the Month awards, fans seemed to be restless.

The demanding Chiefs fans although spoiled with results, still demanded their side win by playing attractive football, something that went against the German's disciplined counter-attacking style of play employed.

From as early as the end of 2019 there were already strong suggestions that Middendorp would not be the Kaizer Chiefs head coach come the 2020/2021 season.

What further cemented the former Maritzburg United coach's departure was a disastrous run of results after a five-month hiatus due to Covid-19 as Kaizer Chiefs narrowly lost out on the title.

With the club also celebrating their 50th anniversary, the writing was on the wall for Middendorp.

“We deliberated and considered many aspects related to the team, including our way of playing, our performances and the results before coming to the decision.”
Kaizer Motaung

These quotes attributed to the Chiefs supremo are quite telling as they confirm fans' discontent was taken into consideration as a factor to replace Middendorp.

They also confirm the rumours that the club's hierarchy had heard the fans' complaints regarding the team's style of play.

Hunting for glory

In identifying a suitable replacement that would come closest to guaranteeing success, Hunt had long been lined up as next in line to front the challenge posed by Sundowns.

Hunt is the only person on a one-man shortlist to have managed to better Mosimane's richly-assembled Sundowns team backed by billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe.

Wits lifted the Absa Premiership trophy in the 2016/2017 season over Sundowns by just three points, becoming the last side to beat the Brazilians to a league title.

There is also a healthy rivalry between Hunt and Mosimane, despite the two often playing it down in public. Behind closed-doors Sport24 understands there is little love lost between the two men.

Pitso Mosimane of Mamelodi Sundowns and Gavin Hunt
Pitso Mosimane of Mamelodi Sundowns and Gavin Hunt of Bidvest Wits team remember Mama Winnie Mandela during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on April 14, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Until recently, Hunt has enjoyed the edge over Mosimane when he took over from the now-Sundowns head coach to lead SuperSport United to three consecutive league titles in the 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10 campaigns.

This feat remains a sensitive issue for Mosimane in his claim to be the best ever head coach in South African football. But he did exact his revenge by recently overtaking Hunt's haul of four league titles with five of his own to hold the outright record.

Hunt now finally has a chance to compete on a level playing field with Mosimane after having previously worked at clubs with a limited budget in recruiting free agents compared to Sundowns' spending power.

Furthermore, Hunt also just so happens to now have at his disposal a talented Kaizer Chiefs squad possessing some of the best players in the league.

Added to this, he has first choice in picking who to bring along with him to Naturena from his previous squad.

Kaizer Chiefs 2.0

The biggest winners, and who unquestionably hold all the cards in this situation, are Kaizer Motaung and Kaizer Chiefs.

If this were a game of cards, Chiefs not only were able to pocket an ace in recruiting a proven winner in Gavin Hunt, but also now have access to a competitor's hand to pick off their best cards in the form of Bidvest Wits free agents.

This all comes with the added incentive of not having to pay a cent in transfer fees.

Even if Hunt's appointment proves to be short-lived, on the recruitment aspect it still can be seen as a win for Chiefs as they will have acquired valuable players that would improve an already talented squad.

Sundowns' transfer activity a clear tell?

Weeks before the conclusion of the 2019/2020 season it has, in hindsight, become apparent that Sundowns had got word of Hunt's imminent move to Chiefs and decided to immediately act.

Even by their own high-spending standards, Sundowns have signed a high number of players for the upcoming season.

Jody February; Grant Margeman; George Maluleka; Lesedi Kapinga; Ricardo Goss; Haashim Domingo; Gift Motupa; Luvuyo Phewa; Peter Shalulile; Mothibi Mvala and Aubrey Modiba have all joined or are about to join.

That's almost an entirely new team adding to an already swollen squad filled with superstars.

Mosimane must have realised that his rival Hunt would have access to two talented squads in Middendorp's Kaizer Chiefs squad and his former Wits squad and decided to act early in leveling the playing field.

He has managed to weaken both those two squads with the signings of George Maluleka (Kaizer Chiefs) and Ricardo Goss, Haashim Domingo, Gift Motupa (all Bidvest Wits).

This signals that the wheels were put in motion well in advance to replace Middendorp with this decision setting off a chain reaction behind the scenes in the battle for power ahead of the 2020/21 season.

Bidvest Wits additions

A team who led the Absa Premiership standings for more than a calendar year naturally possesses a talented squad.

Hunt's job to strengthen a Chiefs squad he will inherit would seem fairly easy with only a few tweaks needed with one or two new additions.

But when having tantalising access to choosing from an entire squad of Bidvest Wits players - who he is already familiar with - to build a possible new-look Chiefs side, this team now could start to look quite formidable.

Tshakuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) who will compete in the top-flight next season after it acquired Bidvest Wits' status on Thursday evening tellingly announced that left-back Sifiso Hlanti and midfielder Thabang Monare will be leaving the club with immediate effect.

Both players would be a surety to now follow Hunt to Naturena and begin the exodus with many other Wits players potentially following. This immediately allows Hunt to strengthen any glaring weaknesses he identifies in last season's Chiefs squad.

Goalkeeper Brandon Peterson, a Bafana Bafana international, could follow to add competition for places alongside Daniel Akpeyi and an ageing Itumeleng Khune.

Buhle Mkhwanazi and other defenders would also strengthen the depth in the centre of defence, while Cole Alexander would be another valuable addition to a new-look Chiefs midfield.

Chiefs could soon boast perhaps the best midfield in the league, with Alexander and Monare joining former Player of the Year Lebogang Manyama.

With just these few additions mentioned a picture starts to emerge of quite a formidable team who would be hard to stop under the guidance of the experienced Hunt.

Kaizer Chiefs possible starting line-up:

Goalkeeper: Brandon Petersen

Defence: Reeve Frosler; Eric Mothoho; Daniel Cardoso; Sifiso Hlanti

Midfield: Cole Alexander Thabang Monare Lebo Manyama

Attackers: Khama Billiat Samir Nurkovic Leonardo Castro

A possible Kaizer Chiefs starting line-up consisti
A possible Kaizer Chiefs starting line-up consisting of current Chiefs and Bidvest Wits players.

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