Brighton Mhlongo of Wits. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES
Brighton Mhlongo of Wits. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES

Brighton Mhlongo will get a rare run-out for Bidvest Wits as they return to professional football with their Nedbank Cup semifinal against Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Wits coach Gavin Hunt said on Thursday he has had similar injury problems to Sundowns counterpart Pitso Mosimane as a result of the uncertainty over the return date for football.

Hunt’s first-choice goalkeepers, Ricardo Goss and Brandon Petersen, are both unavailable. Goss is serving an eight-month suspension for an assault on a referee in January, and Peterson is injured.

Former Orlando Pirates keeper Mhlongo has made just one appearance in two seasons at Wits and gets a chance in the Clever Boys’ games in the biologically safe environment as the football season resumes.

“Brighton has to play. We have also brought our Diski [reserve team] goalkeeper up‚ who I haven’t seen much of,” Hunt said.

Hunt‚ like Mosimane‚ faced challenges trying to rush players back from almost five months of lockdown for an initial proposed return to action date for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) of July 18.

While some coaches have said that with a short training period and no friendlies their first few games in the biologically safe environment will be effective warm-ups‚ Wits can have no such luxury.

They follow Saturday’s semifinal against Sundowns with Premiership games against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando on August 12 and then Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park on August 15.

“We tried to get the players ready by the 18th‚ which was a very short time we had when we came back‚” Hunt said.

“We had a similar thing [to Sundowns] — obviously players breaking down after a day or two‚ pushing them at training to put in a bit extra‚ and trying to do game preparation more than a preseason type of training.

“Thabang Monare and Gift Motupa are struggling a bit. Mxolisi Macuphu got hijacked this week‚ and his car stolen‚ so I don’t know [if he can play].

“Elias Pelembe hasn’t come back. The players who tested positive for Covid-19 have only had four days’ training. But we’ll have a team out.

“Are we ready for Saturday? I would think we’re a week or two from being ready. But will it be a warm-up game? No — we have to just play straight away and try to see how long you can last. If you last 50‚ 60 minutes‚ obviously then your mental approach has to be good.”

Baroka FC and Bloemfontein Celtic play the early semifinal in Saturday’s double-header at Orlando at 2pm‚ with Sundowns meeting Wits at 7.15pm.

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