After seven games into what has been a stop-start season, many PSL clubs may see the international break as a reprieve while others will be cursing its very existence
The international break is often a time of great anxiety for club’s coaches and managers throughout the world. Players travel long distances to strange locations, pick up injuries and have to recover from fatigue.
The argument has always existed between club and country. Many coaches disagree with the amount of international football on the calendar, citing increased injuries as the result. FIFA continues to support the international game and will do so in the future.
Players such as Steven Pienaar have chosen club over country due to the fitness demands created by playing for both.
The international break only makes the manager’s job more difficult as team selection and fitness levels become an essential aspect of coping with the increased amount of international football.
Coaches will either welcome the break with open arms or vilify it. This is certainly the case for PSL clubs.
The upcoming international break will mean many local players are taking part in the Bafana Bafana friendlies against Poland and Kenya, while the clubs’ African stars will be travelling throughout the continent in order to take part in vital African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Players can return exhausted from international duty or may lose focus and form. When a club is on a winning streak, the break is a certain speed hump which hinders progress and is ultimately a coach’s worst nightmare at times.
However the break can be used to regain what has been lost. Coaches can take time to rethink tactics, work on fitness with the players who have been left behind and also hope for some kind of miraculous change in their players form when they return from international duty.
At this point of the season there is a certain dichotomy between clubs which will welcome the break and others which may rue its timing.
The team which is in the most need of time to turn around their season is certainly Mamelodi Sundowns. The state of the team has been labelled “a crisis”.
Johan Neeskens will be one of the many coaches hoping for a transformation of form over the break, with players like Teko Modise, Punch Masenamela and Wayne Sandilands are all set to face Poland and Kenya this weekend. This is to name but a few of the Sundowns players who are leaving Tshwane for the week.
Other teams absolutely desperate for time to work with their squads will be Ajax Cape Town and AmaZulu. Both league strugglers will hope that they can instil confidence in their players before cup and league fixtures get under way again.
Ajax is coach-less at the moment and is still in a recovery stage even though they recorded a victory over fellow basement dwellers AmaZulu last weekend. The break gives the club time to think of restructuring its team and coaching department.
The Durban-based side has been in real strife this season, with AmaZulu sitting rock bottom of the league table. Ralph Palmgren is still lucky to be at the helm of the club and he will use the break to its full advantage in trying to restore his players’ diminished confidence.
Clubs which do not have many players travelling over the international break such as Chippa United, Black Leopards and Bidvest Wits may benefit from the weekend off as their teams will return to action rejuvenated.
With the league fixtures only commencing on the 26th of October and Telkom Knockout games to come before, time is certainly on hand.
There are benefits for many clubs, but the powerhouses of South African football will most likely disagree. The stop-start nature of the season has meant many clubs have struggled to play consistently .
Supersport United are the guiltiest on this front, with the team unable to string together more than one win this season so far. Gavin Hunt’s side is still unbeaten but have played to six draws showing that the team are struggling to find a source of momentum.
Some of Kaizer Chiefs most important players have left for duty this week, meaning Stuart Baxter will be one of the most anxious coaches over the break, as Bernard Parker, George Lebese, Reneilwe Letsholoanyane, Simphiwe Tshabalala, Ithumeleng Khune and Eric Mathoho have all travelled with the South African national squad.
Orlando Pirates will also relinquish important players to the international cause. The Buccaneers have struggled for consistent form this season but looked close to their best in their encounter against AmaTuks.
Roger De Sa will most likely be cursing this ill-timed hiatus as a vast majority of the team will return fatigued from long distance travel. He will be hoping that this is not the case. However a large portion of his quality side comprises international players.
Collins Mbesuma, Oupa Manyisa, Sifiso Myeni and Siyabonga Sangweni are to name but a few of the Pirates players who have joined up with their national sides.
Teams who have been enjoying good form such as Maritzburg United, Moroka Swallows and Bloemfontein Celtic will all be in the same boat. Form can certainly be lost over this time and coaches will have to try to keep their players motivated and ready for the challenges ahead.