One of the success stories of the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) bio-bubble has been the emergence of young talent and at Bidvest Wits that has been especially evident.
Bidvest Wits academy graduate Rowan Human has made headlines for his enterprising play in recent weeks and the Clever Boys star marked his rise with a first professional goal in the club’s 2-1 win over AmaZulu, in the Absa Premiership last week.
The 19-year-old was promoted to the first team by head coach Gavin Hunt during a MultiChoice Diski Challenge (MDC) season in which he scored 14 goals in leading Dillon Sheppard’s team clear atop the standings. Bidvest Wits held a four-point lead at the summit of the MDC table when the season was officially cancelled in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It hasn’t been bad, it is good to be here because you get to know your teammates a bit better because you spend a lot of time together even if it is in special circumstances,” said Human when asked about life in the bubble. “The playing part hasn’t been easy, but it has been nice to compete at this level. It has been tough, it is fast, it is more physical than the MDC but it has been nice, I like that competitiveness. I enjoy the competitiveness, it makes you a better player, a better person.”
“At this level if you don’t take your chances or make a mistake you get punished so I’ve learnt a lot for future reference.”
“Scoring my first goal, it felt… (undescribable). I was really excited, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I couldn’t stop smiling. I always thought about that moment and how I would celebrate, and when it came I was almost too excited to celebrate, it felt so good to score my first professional goal.”
Human continued: “Mainly I adapted so quickly because I could see what Coach Gavin wanted from me and the players in the first team have a winning mentality. I always want to win and if we lose I don’t feel happy, even if I personally had a good game.”
“That mentality just pushes you to be better. The players want to win and make it easy for you. Coach gives you enough freedom to play, but also expects you to be responsible. Coach Sheppie [Sheppard] and Coach Paulie [Paul Johnstone], how they speak to you before the game, relaxes you. The players and coaches have played a big part in helping me adapt,” he concluded.
Human joined the club as a 13-year-old and really rose to prominence two years later when at the age of 15 he was roped into the club’s Gauteng Future Champs squad by Sheppard.
“I saw Rowan in the U15 team and I thought he could play at a higher level so going into the Future Champs tournaments I decided it would be great to have a young player in the squad, just to be a part of it,” Sheppard explained.
“In the match against Torino we were 1-0 down. The game was a bit dull and coach Phuphu [Mohlaba] and myself decided that we should give the youngster a go and he changed the game completely, he turned the game on its head. He set up the equaliser and we drew 1-1 and that is where it all started for him I feel.”
“He went on to play every game in that tournament as we reached the final where we lost to Atletico Madrd. He scored a couple of goals in that tournament and he was only 15 at the time playing in an U17 tournament, so I think the writing was on the wall. The talent was unquestionable.”
Human has gone on to feature at national level for Amajita and has set the foundation for a successful future at the highest level of the game.
“Credit must also go to Gavin [Hunt] because he asked us which players we thought could make the jump into the first team and with no moment’s hesitation we thought he [Rowan] could give us something different. Gavin and Paul [Johnstone] have shown faith in him, given him an opportunity and he has taken the opportunity with both hands,” Sheppard added.
“It is a very proud moment for everyone who has been involved with the process, it has been an unbelievable rise. But, in saying that, it’s important that he doesn’t get ahead of himself and think that the work stops. He has got this opportunity and proved that he can play at this level but now it is the thing of him going onto the next level. I always tell him to keep raising the bar. Hopefully in the future he can go overseas because I think that is a dream for any young player.”
Furthermore, Bidvest Wits academy graduates Keenan Phillips, Mpho Mathebula and Janovane September have also gone on to make their professional debuts in the bio-bubble.