Having enjoyed a well-earned day off on Sunday, it was back onto the training track for the Glory squad on Monday morning (local time), with the coaching staff overseeing a high-intensity session ahead of today’s final game of the tour against another top flight local side, Bidvest Wits.
All of the players participated, but Coach Ian Ferguson is yet to finalise who will be named to start the Wits clash which will again take place at the magnificent Mbombela Stadium.
“I’ve not made my mind up regarding the starting line-up just yet to be honest”, he said.
“A few of the players are not feeling too well or have little niggling injuries so I’ll leave it a bit later before making that decision.
“But we’ve been working on shape since we got here, so everyone knows what we’re doing anyway and can slot in.”
Along with several members of his coaching staff, Ferguson was an interested onlooker as Wits lost to Glory’s last opponents, Platinum Stars, on Sunday afternoon and feels they will provide his charges with another ideal pre-season test.
“I was quite impressed with what I saw of Bidvest yesterday”, he said.
“They may have lost the game, but they have some very quick players up front and out wide who can cause problems playing on the shoulder and latching onto the ball over the top. With the pace they have, once they’re gone, you’re not going to catch them.
“That said, I want to concentrate on our game. It’s about us coming over here and getting the structure and the shape right and that will be the focus for us.
“There will be changes, so you might not get the consistency or fluency that you would have if the same side had played four or five consecutive games, but it’s important that everyone is getting some game time.
“There’ll again be a mix of the younger players and the more experienced guys.”
As for the opponents, Wits are based in Johannesburg and have a close association with Witwatersrand University, hence their nicknames of “The Clever Boys” or “The Students”.
Formed in 1921, they have produced a number of high-profile players who have enjoyed great success both domestically and overseas, including ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey and Rangers and Scotland defender Richard Gough.
Like Glory’s previous opponents Platinum Stars, the off-season has been a busy one at Wits, with coach Roger De Sa departing and more than 20 new players being brought on board.
The vastly-experienced and widely-travelled Antonio Lopez Habas has replaced De Sa in the top job having spent the 2010-2011 season in charge of another top flight South African side, Mamelodi Sundowns.
The 55-year-old has previously been at the helm of several clubs in Spain’s La Liga, including Valencia, Celta Vigo, Sporting Gijon and Tenerife and also took charge of Bolivia at two Copa America tournaments in the 1990s.
The Clever Boys finished 12th in the ABSA Premiership last season, something of a disappointment given that the previous year they had lifted the Nedbank Cup, South Africa’s equivalent of the FA Cup, defeating Amazulu 3-0 in the Final.
This term, however, many pundits are tipping them to show a significant improvement and they certainly have some talented performers in their new-look squad.
Aaron Mokoena and skipper Stanton Fredericks are their biggest names, with the former having spent eight seasons playing in England for Blackburn and Portsmouth, earning more than 100 caps for South Africa along the way and the latter also a regular for Bafana Bafana who previously enjoyed successful spells at both Swiss club Grasshoppers and Russian outfit FC Moscow.
Mokoena is likely to line-up at centre-back, with Fredericks operating in midfield alongside Matthew Pattison who has arrived from Cape Town-based side Santos, while up front, Ryan Chapman is a lively performer who debuted for the national side against Equatorial Guinea earlier this year.
And providing a reassuring presence at the back will be the formidable figure of goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro, an established Zimbabwean international who has featured for his country at several African Cup of Nations tournaments.
Coach Habas is expected to shuffle his pack for tomorrow’s game, with several of his higher-profile players coming into the starting eleven and he will be demanding greater physicality from his side who were frequently out-muscled by Platinum Stars on Sunday.
PERTH GLORY V BIDVEST WITS
Today, 11am CAT (5pm Perth time)
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit.
Perth Glory’s 2012 pre-season tour of South Africa is proudly sponsored by Kaboko Mining, Okap Ventures, Europcar and managed by prominent South African firm SportUnplugged.