Mamelodi Sundowns started their 2023 preseason campaign with a return to Chloorkop in the first week, where the team gathered and prepared for the upcoming season. Under the guidance of their Head Coach, Rulani Mokwena, The Brazilians progressed through two intensive phases of their preseason training. Now, as they entered the third and final phase with a trip to the Netherlands, the team began to lay the foundation for what would be a remarkable journey.
“We came at a very strange time in Europe, because they are experiencing probably their hottest moment of the summer. There was an incredible anticipation for a heat wave, but the heat wave of the Netherlands is a natural summer for us [In South Africa] where the conditions are warm, but it’s extremely warm sometimes and then they get extremely humid. There’s also a lot of vegetation, plantations of trees and that also gives a very good but relaxed energy football feeling to the preparation and the training.” Said Coach Rulani.
“Already we’ve engaged with some people here and they are warm and very welcoming. They love football and you can see that the game of football is an incredibly loved sport in this part of the world. The facilities are excellent, we’ve got two very good training pitches, we’ve got access to the gym and the training sessions have been very, very good. We’ve been able to do some tactical work and try to prepare for the season that’s coming, we use the training sessions and we use the games as training sessions. The intensity is going to be good with some very good opponents and we are looking forward to trying to finalize our preseason with very difficult games against some very good opponents.”
The Premier Soccer League announced that the 2023/24 campaign will kick off on 4 August, Masandawana are set to be in action in the opening fixture of the DStv Premiership against Sekhukhune United at the New Peter Mokaba stadium. With The Brazilians spending their preseason grand finale in a foreign country and preparing to test their mettle against international clubs, Coach Rulani expressed the challenges that his team may come across when they return home to begin their title defense, he said:
“The anticipation is that it affects us when we get back to South Africa. Traveling, jet lag, time zones and altitude, these are all the problems we are going to have to overcome upon our return to South Africa. At the moment [it doesn’t affect us] we are training as normal. We’ve got morning training sessions and the players still have time to recover in the evening, and in between we’ve got a couple of sessions [such as] morning tactical session and then we’ve got a bit of gym work midday, and then in the afternoon or early evening we’ve got video sessions for the players individually. The work is the same as we would have in South Africa, but our biggest challenge will be that week upon our return and that’s when we are going to really have to rely on the quality of our medical staff and our sport scientists to get our players over the line.”
Coach Rulani continued to provide an exclusive update on their camp and how the different parts of the preseason journey will be transformative for the players’ physical and mental preparedness for the upcoming season. “It’s about choice depending on the load of the previous season and then also depending on what is anticipated for the upcoming season. We decided when we had a look at the program to anticipate the return of the start of the league and that we would split our pre-season into three compartments.”
“The first being completely to the sports scientist and the medical department, with tests and data collection because that’s important to know the profile of our players from a physiological perspective but also to know where the benchmarks are and what we would call from a physical standpoint – the zero point of each individual. [We would know] how far we can push them. Where do we take them from, the amount of rest and load that’s going to be needed for each player and try to tailor some of the elements to meet individual needs from a strength perspective, endurance perspective, speed perspective and sometimes even from an injury prevention perspective.”
“That’s now moving from phase one introducing it a little bit into phase two but still being very economical with the outlook of the preparations to use this period for technical and tactical priorities, and then course with the physical conditions and adaptations to the program. But generally this time for us is so important because when the season starts it’s about recovery and match day minus one (and again) recovery and match day minus one. With a congested season there is not a lot of time to train and introduce new concepts and we use this time to do that.”