JOHANNESBURG – On the eve of Mamelodi Sundowns’ Nedbank Cup semi-final clash against Wits, the uncharacteristically jittery coach Pitso Mosimane has declared that his team’s preparation has been stymied.
The semi-final will be tomorrow evening at the Orlando Stadium and will mark the restart of football in South Africa after a protracted period of uncertainty.
At the pre-match press conference, there was none of the usual caginess about Mosimane. He explained that there was a ludicrous overkill at training to have players sufficiently prepared for the August 8 start. Over the last few weeks, several other dates were mooted for restarting football.
“We were doing the wrong type of training because we thought that we would be starting around July 18,” said Mosimane.
“As a result, we overloaded (intensified training) players, and as a result, there were some injuries. Later, we heard that the restart might be August 1, although it was not officially announced.
“So, there were changes in focus up to the time that we were told it would be August 8.
“You have got to understand that we prepared the team wrong from the beginning. We were preparing as if the games would be starting in 10-12 days.
“There was an agreement from the PSL (Premier Soccer League) to train in the first week of July and from that point onwards it was a great rush. We thought games would start around July 15.”
Mosimane said with all the uncertainty he was caught on the wrong foot, and it looks like the players are unsettled going into the match tomorrow. His evaluation analysis shows enhanced anxiety levels in the camp. There is also the matter of coping with the psychological pressure of cup games.
He said vastly different training was required to bring the best out of the body after four months of inactivity.
“How you prepare the team for the restart is very different,” said Mosimane. “You get different reactions from the body because it has done nothing in the last three and a half months.
“This has been the challenge. Be that as it may, that is where we are now, and we had a few injuries. You have to understand how strange football is during Covid-19 times. We do not have team spirit in the camp.”
Sundowns have several players on the injury list, and two players are stranded abroad because of lockdown travelling restrictions. However, they have the biggest squad in the PSL and have the resources to comfortably retain their status as the ‘Aristocrats of SA Soccer’, and conjure up a match-winning performance en route to yet another final.