Subsequent to their win over Orlando Pirates in an Absa Premiership match on Wednesday, Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt sang the praises of 17-year-old Phakamani Mahlambi. Hunt, famous for giving a teenage Benni McCarthy his big break in top flight football, says Mahlambi has the world at his feet. Interestingly, he went on to say the young lad is even better than McCarthy at that same age: ‘I hate making comparisons. I had Benni at 17. This boy is better. I’m telling you. I haven’t seen a talent like this. He beats people inside a phonebooth.’
The School Of Excellence graduate was given his PSL debut by Hunt earlier this season, and has since established himself as a crowd favourite. With the scores of experience in the Wits team in the likes of Daine Klate, Elias Pelembe, Nazeer Allie, and Onismor Bhasera, Mahlambi has the luxury of expressing himself, and the coach looks to use this to his advantage. Hunt says: ‘Youngsters just play. They don’t care what happened before. They just want to play. You just give them a bit of coaching and they’ll do the job.’
The three-time league winning coach went on to compare him to another one of the footballing great of South Africa, saying: ‘Teenage Dladla was fantastic. I played against Teenage, and I’m still looking for him. Like him this boy can also beat people in small areas.’ In the game against Pirates, Mahlambi failed to score after he beat the off-side trap and came one-on-one with keeper Felipe Ovono, but despite this Hunt believes he’s more of a goal scorer than anything: ‘He can score. Well, should have scored there. I’m gonna try and change him from winger to striker. I did that with Benni and we all know what happened there. I haven’t seen such natural ability in a long time.’
Meanwhile, that win over the Sea Robbers, their fifth in seven matches so far, elevated the Clever Boys to the summit of the log with 16 points. Although still quite early to call, this will go a long way in their quest for the much elusive league title.