September 18, 2021

Bidvest Wits coach Hunt sees empty stadium advantage for Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates

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Playing inside empty stadiums is an unfamiliar scenario for the most-followed teams and the Students tactician shares his thoughts on the situation

Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt feels that Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns will thrive playing their matches behind closed without pressure from their demanding fans.

Football returns in South Africa after almost five months of inactivity and matches will be played inside empty stadiums, a rare situation in domestic football for the widely-followed sides.

Of the traditional South African big three clubs, Sundowns will be the first to experience how action without fans feels like when they take on Hunt’s charges in a Nedbank Cup semi-final match at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Pirates will be the second traditional giant to taste the atmosphere of an empty stadium during Tuesday’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) clash, interestingly, against Sundowns at Dobsonville Stadium.

Chiefs will be the last to experience the situation when they host Wits the following day in a league match at Orlando Stadium and Hunt feels that the big three clubs will have an edge in the absence of their hard-to-please supporters.

“People say the bigger clubs could struggle [without fans], but I don’t think so,” said Hunt as per Phakaaathi.

“I think there is normally a lot of pressure [from the fans] and maybe now it will be less on the three bigger teams.”

The resumption of football without fans inside stadiums comes as Chiefs bid for a first PSL title since 2015, while Sundowns are pushing for s third straight league title.

Chiefs are four points better than second-placed Sundowns who have played a game less and could also claim the Nedbank Cup to complete a treble should they be crowned league champions as well.

For Pirates, the most realistic league finish they have is third place, the same chance as Wits.

But Wits face what could turn out to be a difficult return to football as they face the big three within seven days.

After Saturday and Wednesday’s assignments against Sundowns and Chiefs respectively, they will be on the road again, this time travelling to Ellis Park for a date with Orlando Pirates on August 15.

“We play Sundowns, Chiefs and Pirates in seven days, a lot of players will make their debuts, for sure,” said Hunt.

The Clever Boys tactician has promoted eight reserve team players to widen his pool of selection in the event of injuries and fatigue taking a toll on his team amid crammed fixtures.

“It possibly wouldn’t have happened in a normal season, but we will take it from there. Football is a funny old game,” Hunt said.