With a light mist rising in swathes from the nearby valley of the Crocodile River to obscure much of the surrounding countryside, there was an almost ethereal quality about the first training session of Glory’s South African tour.
With a light mist rising in swathes from the nearby valley of the Crocodile River to obscure much of the surrounding countryside, there was an almost ethereal quality about the first training session of Glory-s South African tour.
Not that the players had the time to appreciate the tranquillity of the moment.
Resplendent in their new white and orange tour training kit, they were put through a thorough workout involving fitness, ball and extensive shape work by Ian Ferguson and his coaching team and eager to shake off any lingering effects of the weekend-s long journey and six-hour time difference, the players responded with plenty of enthusiasm.
Clearly relishing the superb surface of the Ingwenyama Resort-s training pitches and keenly aware that the first game of the tour is scheduled for Tuesday evening local time, the entire playing group participated in the session and the intensity was high throughout.
The final shape drill featured what is likely to be Glory-s starting eleven for the game against top flight outfit Amazulu, with five of the club-s off-season recruits set to get the nod.
Chris Harold, Nicky Ward and Adrian Zahra will form a skilful and pacy attacking midfield trio, while Scott Jamieson and Michael Thwaite will occupy the left-back and centre-back berths respectively in a back four also featuring Steve Pantelidis and Josh Risdon.
Danny Vukovic will start in goal, with Jacob Burns and Liam Miller rekindling their hugely successful central midfield partnership and Travis Dodd operating as the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Burns will of course skipper the side and is looking forward to the hit-out.
“I-m expecting a tough encounter against Amazulu”, he said.
“We know that they will be physically strong and quick and are a good overall side who finished seventh in their league last term.
“It-s a great opportunity for us to have another game in which we can try new things in terms of tactics and formations, bed the new players in and work on our combinations all over the pitch. You can only do that by playing games against decent quality opposition.
“I-m also looking forward to playing at what is by all accounts a fantastic stadium with a great surface and it should be a really good experience, especially for the young lads in the squad.
“The fans here tend to make a lot of noise with their vuvuzelas and so on, so there-s always a good vibe and I-m sure that-ll be the case for this game.”
Of the three sides Glory will face on their tour of the Republic, Amazulu finished highest in last season-s ABSA Premiership and with up to 10,000 of their fans expected to be in attendance at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday evening, will provide the West Aussies with a stern opening test.
The Durban-based club entertained Manchester United as recently as last week, taking plenty of positives from a creditable 1-0 defeat at the hands of last season-s EPL runners-up and have drafted in several quality new recruits for the impending 2012-2013 league campaign.
Liberian international Dulee Johnson has been snapped up following spells in Sweden with AIK Stockholm and in Holland with De Graafschap and will be joined in midfield by two members of the most recent South Africa national squad, Thamsanqa Sangweni and SifisoVilakazi.
Up front, meanwhile, much will again be expected from Ayanda Phelalani Dlamini whose sharpness in the box has earned him the nickname, “Cobra” and Glory will also have to be aware of the threat posed by defender Mark van Heerden from free-kicks around the edge of the box.
Amazulu-s coach is the vastly-experienced Swede Roger Palmgren whose lengthy managerial resume features the national teams of both Rwanda and Sierra Leone and who led his current club to the final of South Africa-s equivalent of the FA Cup, the Nedbank Cup, as recently as 2010.
Nicknamed Usuthu, a Zulu war cry, the men from Natal will be well supported in Nelspruit despite the considerable distance from their home city and will be gunning for revenge having been narrowly beaten by Glory during last year-s tour.
PERTH GLORY V AMAZULU July 24, 6pm CAT (midnight Perth) Mbombela Stadium
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.