Tyson leads by ex­am­ple

AHEAD of the start of the 2017/18 Absa Premier­ship sea­son, In­de­pen­dent News­pa­pers will pro­file cap­tains of the five teams we be­lieve will be among the se­ri­ous chal­lengers for the league ti­tle. To­day we fo­cus on Thu­lani Hlatshwayo of de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Bi

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

THU­LANI Hlatshwayo can claim to be among the great­est to have ever cap­tained Bid­vest Wits and Bafana Bafana. “Tyson” did af­ter all lead Wits to their first league ti­tle in al­most a cen­tury and cap­tained Bafana in their first vic­tory over Nige­ria in a com­pet­i­tive match … in Nige­ria.

Lead­er­ship Qual­ity

“He is a strong char­ac­ter in the dress­ing room and leads by ex­am­ple,” Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter de­scribed Hlatshwayo af­ter nam­ing him cap­tain of the se­nior na­tional team. Hlatshwayo prefers to do his job with lit­tle fuss and at­ten­tion but is still ef­fec­tive none­the­less. Tyson isn’t in your face, on and off the field, but you al­ways feel his pres­ence. He takes the spot­light when he has to and in his own terms.

The 27-year-old cen­tre­back al­ways rises to the oc­ca­sion when the chips are down, whether it’s com­ing up with a cru­cial block or scor­ing a timely goal.

Hlatshwayo is as­sured of his qual­i­ties enough to al­low other team­mates to “take over” the team if need be with­out feel­ing threat­ened of his role as a cap­tain.

Route to cap­taincy

Hlatshwayo ex­hib­ited qual­i­ties of a good leader from an early age. He wasn’t a vo­cal one but pre­ferred to let his per­for­mance do the talk­ing and lead by ex­am­ple in­stead. He was an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in the na­tional Un­der-20 team that played in the 2009 World Cup in Egypt.

His re­served de­meanour never re­ally changed with age even though he grew as a leader. Gavin Hunt saw he was cap­tain ma­te­rial and gave him the arm­band two years ago to de­crease the work­load Sibu­siso Vi­lakazi had.

This al­lowed “Vila”, Hlatshwayo’s friend, an op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus more on his game with­out the heavy work­load that in­cluded in­spir­ing his team­mates. That job came nat­u­rally to Hlatshwayo as it was some­thing he had been do­ing for a long time with­out the arm­band. Now he will go down in his­tory as the first Wits’ cap­tain to lift the Absa Premier­ship in the club’s 96-year his­tory.

Play­ing style

In the three years that Hlatshwayo has spent at Wits, he has trans­formed into a phe­nom­e­nal player, a beast of some sort.

“I’ve worked with a lot of coaches who’ve con­trib­uted to me be­ing the player I am to­day. The likes of Foppe de Haan, Roger de Sa and all my de­vel­op­ment coaches. But I have to ad­mit that it was coach Hunt who trans­formed me into a beast. He awoke some­thing I never thought I had in­side me,” Hlatshwayo said af­ter win­ning the Absa Premier­ship De­fender of the Sea­son award.

The beast that Hlatshwayo has trans­formed into is a rugged de­fender with a scor­ing touch from his fe­ro­cious head­ers. Hunt lived up to his prom­ise af­ter the club won the MTN8 last year, that he will turn Tyson into a pow­er­ful force if he can wake up the beast within him. That beast is awake and has been caus­ing havoc.

In­flu­ence

One of the most iconic pic­tures of Hlatshwayo isn’t that of him lift­ing the Absa Premier­ship or of him stand­ing tall in Uyo af­ter Bafana slayed Nige­ria for the first time. It’s an old im­age of the ver­sa­tile de­fender in the colours of Ajax Cape Town in 2012. In that pic­ture, Tyson has a big grin de­spite a blood­ied mouth af­ter los­ing three teeth. He quickly re­turned to train­ing af­ter that in­jury as if noth­ing had hap­pened, fur­ther prov­ing why he is nick­named af­ter Mike Tyson, who was once called the bad­dest man on the planet dur­ing his boxing days.

Hlatshwayo gives his all on the pitch, in­spir­ing his team­mates to do the same. His at­ti­tude, high work rate and ded­i­ca­tion make him an ideal role model and a great leader. Hlatshwayo doesn’t say what needs to be done, he does it. His form last sea­son played a role in Buhle Mkhwanazi com­ing out of his shell as the two de­fend­ers pushed each other to form a solid cen­tral de­fence part­ner­ship.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIUX

CAP­TAIN FAN­TAS­TIC: Thu­lani Hlatshwayo has cap­tained Bid­vest Wits with such aplomb they won both the MTN8 and Absa Premier­ship ti­tles. Gavin Hunt knows he can bank on him to help them de­fend both tro­phies.

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