Gavin Hunt stands on the cusp of becoming just the second coach in the history of Kaizer Chiefs to lead the club into a CAF Club competition semi-final, almost two decades after Muhsin Ertugral oversaw Amakhosi reaching the semi-finals of the 2001 CAF Cup Winners Cup.
Having won the first leg of their quarterfinal clash with Simba of Tanzania 4-0 a week ago, Hunt is calling for his team to be focused and see out the game and move onto the last four of the CAF Champions League semi-finals for the first time.
As Chiefs get ready to face Simba in front of 10 000 fans at the national stadium in Dar es Salaam, Hunt oversaw Chiefs’ final training session ahead of the game on Friday in the Tanzanian capital..
Commenting on his team’s build-up to the game he said. “We had a couple of days training and we had a day’s travelling yesterday (Thursday), it took the whole day to travel. We had our last training session and that’s it, to prepare and play the game”.
For Hunt this is his second sojourn in African club football into Tanzania. He previously faced Simba’s rivals Azam as coach of Bidvest Wits in a CAF Confederations Cup First round tie in 2016. His team lost the second leg in Dar es Salaam 4-3 for a 7-3 aggregate defeat. Hunt is aware of the conditions that his team will encounter on Saturday, “the weather is totally different from Johannesburg. It’s warm and humid here but that’s no excuse we have to play and we are looking forward to the game”.
When asked whether the tie is over given Chiefs commanding four goal lead, Hunt was quick to play down Chiefs’ advantage. When asked if the tie was fundamentally over he was adamant saying, “no not at all”. Instead he is urging his team to play as though the game is just kicking off, as he said “what’s past is past, we can only affect what’s in front of us, which is the game tomorrow (Saturday). We have to concentrate on starting the game afresh and playing as if it is 0-0 and trying to get a result here”.
Hunt knows all about being complacent when holding a first leg lead in continental competition, as he spoke from past experience when explaining that his charges will be best off putting last week’s result aside. He spoke about the experience he had as Wits coach in the 2015 CAF Confederation Cup preliminary rounds against Royal Leopards from Eswatini.
“I have been here before. I had a bad experience in 2015 when we defeated Royal Leopards 3-0 in the first leg and lost the second 3-0 and went out on penalties. We must be aware, that’s why I say it is 0-0”.
For Hunt it is now all about game management and performing the same they did a week ago at FNB Stadium, “we have to try and do the same again tomorrow, try and score a goal because away goals count double. I think that’s important. Tomorrow (Saturday) is a new game, forget about the last game, let’s start 0-0 and let’s play for a result”.
As the coach further stressed Chiefs remaining fixtures domestically are on the back burner and all focus is on Simba and getting into the semi-finals. “We have to play this game like it is our last game and not worry about what is coming on Wednesday. The players have a huge opportunity to go places where they have not been before, where I have not been before. Let’s explore and take it minute by minute, we can’t think of the end result we have to go through the process of getting through the first few minutes”.
While there is a lot of history to be made for Hunt on a personal level he is not concerned about that and is looking at the greater good of the team. “Personal success does not mean anything, the most important thing is the team and the club being successful”.
Should Chiefs reach the semi-final of the CAF Champions League, Chiefs will be just the third South African team along with Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates to have reached the last four of Africa’s premier club competition. A spot in the last four will also see Chiefs become just the second South African team along with Orlando Pirates to reach the semi-finals of two different African Club competitions.