Mahlambi and Keene suffered serious injuries last term as Wits stumbled late into the title race with eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Hunt, who doubts Downs will dominate again this campaign, believes the pair’s knocks contributed to his team’s poor finish to 2015/16.
“We have James Keene and Phakamani to come in and more likely in the second round, so it will be like two great signings for us come January,” says Hunt.
“With 10 games to go last season we lost Phakamani, Keene, Papy Faty and ‘Tyson’ (Thulani Hlatshwayo). The whole spine, the middle of the team went and all got injured.
“We limped over the line and we were basically limping and running with one leg which happens and we never challenged after that.
“We would have been close and I know that if Phakamani, James and Papy would have played but didn’t play. It’s one of those things.”
Hunt recently lost his captain Vilakazi to Mamelodi Sundowns as part of a swap deal involving Mogakalodi Ngele and Cuthbert Malajila.
“It was very, very difficult because you don’t want to let go of any good player,” Hunt says of Vilakazi’s exit.
“But I mean it has been going on for how long now, two years, three years. It has been disappointing for me because it has been tapped all the time. I think it affected me and everyone and not that I have grudges with anyone.
“It certainly affected him and he wasn’t the same. He has the chance now to earn lots of money and good luck to him. He will be set for life now on money that he couldn’t earn here.
“I spoke to him about it; he’s 25, 26 and he’s at the right age and I didn’t want to lose him but it’s good for him, for us. The timing was right and I didn’t want him to go because I like him.”
Hunt’s side will start their quest for league glory against Kaizer Chiefs on Tuesday at Bidvest Stadium.