The Clever Boys is Bidvest Wits University FC nickname which was coined by few Wits ground and manual workers who followed the team they worked for led by our Groundsman Bro Sam Ndlovu. They increased as they were followed by reserve team players, parents and families of kids who played in the junior and Reserve teams of Wits during the early 80’s
I joined Wits University Reserves in March 1981 by then a predominantly white team and was promoted in June to the senior team, which had only Mike Mangena as the black player. Mangena had joined Wits in 1980 and found Zeph Mthembu who later left at end of 1980, hence on my arrival it was Mangena who was the only black player in the team. We were joined in 1983 by Leornard “Wagga Wagga” Likoebe; we were known as the 3 musketeers or the “kitchen boys” who sold out and played for white people instead of playing for black teams, but to some we were the pioneers of social cohesion against a bad system of apartheid proving that blacks were competing with whites and being in the starting line ups and winning not just games but also trophies for our team Wits University.
This period was the tenure of Raymond Hack and Prof Ronnie Schloss as Chairman and President respectively. Schloss and Hack convinced me to train with Wits after Mangena advised them that I was a good player. I then obliged and trained with Wits and I was signed immediately. During this tenure 1981-1985 when I played for Wits and the Coaches like Mike Kenning, Julie Kaplan helped by Martin Cohen, then kenning again on his second stint.
During this time there, white legends like Rod Anley, Brian Pomroy, Richard Kellet, Cliffie Crouch, Dave Jacobs, Tony Jacobsen, Andy Stanton, Mark Moca, Dickie McMillan, Dave Waterson, Jimmy Cook, John Ellse, Steve Haupt, Trevor Tennent ( the longest serving captain) the European exports Miljia Aleksis, Steve Smith, Frank McGrelis, Andy Geddis and last but not least who can forget the best of them all the legends at Wits, Rodney” The Bush Buck”Bush.
In that mix there we younger talented players who played in the Reserves like Martin Glauber, Erick Koseff, Howard Koseff, Zoran Illic, Craig Nathan, Scot Simpson, Hugo Melandowitz, Nelson Castro, John Comittis, Ivan Speechly, Errol Mann, Gary Soresman, Pino Ancorola, and a lot others. This group mainly came from the University football program spearheaded by astute Jimmy Backos and Derek Blackensee. With these players and strong administration, the team was ready to compete and win trophies.
Although we lost 2-1 against Kaizer Chiefs in the final of Datsun in 1983, where Mangena scored a 40 yards scorcher, we won the BP Top 8 in 1984 and 1985 JPS Final, where I scored the winner and voted Man of the Match. However, we never won the League, the nearest we came to was coming second in 1982 and 1985. Mangena left end of 1984 for a Wits transfer record R25 000 to Bush Bucks and I left When I left I end of 1985 for record transfer R33 000 to Mamelodi Sundowns and Wagga was released end of 1985.
Whenever I was at Sundowns I would want beat my former team to show that I have improved. After I left Wits, I continued to follow them to the extent that if Sundowns does not win any trophy, that trophy would have rather be won by Wits, including the League. As a player I won the League twice 1988 and 1990 with Sundowns as a player, once in 1993 as part of the technical stuff and recently won it twice in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 still on the technical department but always wished Wits should win the League.
After I left, new coaches like Joe Frickleton, Eddie Lewis coming for his second stint, John Latham, Boebie Solomons, Roger De SA, Eric Tinkler from 1986 thereafter we have seen an array of legends coming in still winning trophies like Ronny Moletsane, Abel Shongwe, Kevin Mudie, Eric Tinkler, Kevin Rafferty, Nicky Shaw, Steve Tlou, Peter Gordon, Bradley Carnell, Warren Du Pont, Steve Barker and Roan Malgue, just to mention a few. But Wits never won the League and going without winning the League until the arrival of the Chairman Brian Joffe who is not only wealthy, but also likes the game and is generous, Jose Ferreira as the CEO , later Jonathan Schloss as COO joining the long serving George Mokgotsi in administration. However, the catalyst was the arrival of Gavin Hunt as a Coach with his great pedigree of having the League with Supersport United 3 times in a row and brought the belief that Bidvest Wits can win the League.
During Hunt’s tenure the team finished 3rd twice, then runner’s up and this Season finally landing the top prize. The team has been signed a lot of good players like Buhle Mkhwanazi, Jabu Shongwe, Diane Klate, Moeneeb Joseph, Mogakolodi Ngele, Cuthbert Malajila, Elias Pelembe, Sifiso Hlanti, Darren Keet, Thabang Monare, Granwald Granwald Scott and Bongani Khumalo. The team also promoted players like Phumlani Ntshangase, Ben Motswari, Phakamani Mahlambi and ReeveFrossler just to mention a few.
Never did I ever think that the team could win the League with myself and Prof Schloss making a contribution. Schloss, through his son Jonathan who is now the club’s COO (While I was playing Jonathan used to come and watch as a small 10 year old) and through my “son” Thulani “Tyson” Hlatshwayo, also from Soweto who is not only a key player but also the Captain. I took Hlatshwayo under my wing and mentored him from when he was 15 years old until now. I watched Wits v Chiefs on the last game of the Season, although Wits lost the game, but they received the trophy in front of the Kaizer Chiefs and their supporters which had increased from those who used to watch us but are still predominantly black which and Wits players are now predominantly black than when I played Wits. Well done “Clever boys”.
Well done the “Clever Boys”
Author : Mike Ntombela
Mike Ntombela former wits and Sundowns player owns Mike Ntombela Sports Management and he writes in his personal capacity www.mikentombelasports.co.za