Grace Chingoma Sports Reporter
AS part of their pre-season preparations, CAPS United will have a 10-day training camp in South Africa where they are also set to play some practice matches against some of that country’s top-flight teams as they seek to win this season’s Castle Lager Premiership soccer title.
The Green Machine are expected early next month to travel to South Africa where they will also feature in practice matches against Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits in Pretoria.
It would be the third time that CAPS United and Sundowns will play against each other after Makepekepe went to Polokwane in South Africa as part of their pre-season training before the start of the 2014 season.
Sundowns also came to Zimbabwe for friendly matches with Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders.
However, before Makepekepe embarks on that journey, they will first feature in another pre-season friendly match tomorrow at the National Sports Stadium where they engage visiting Zambian side Kabwe Warriors.
CAPS United have taken advantage of the Zambians’ stay in the country before they return home as the visitors yesterday played against Dynamos at Rufaro.
But it is the tour of South Africa, a month before the Castle Lager Premiership Soccer League season gets underway which should help CAPS United fine-tune themselves before the 2016 season bursts into life.
The PSL have indicated that the league is likely to start during the first weekend of April as the league fathers have catered for the Warriors back-to-back clashes against Swaziland in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers between March 23 and 29.
And the former champions CAPS United believe that assessing their players under game situations will give them a fair assessment of all the players as the club has recruited quite a number of new players this year.
Yesterday, coach Lloyd Chitembwe said they will go to South Africa just after the Champions League preliminary round, second round tie between Sundowns and Chicken Inn in Pretoria on the weekend of February 27–28.
The cash-rich South African side is this weekend coming to Bulawayo for the first round fixture against the Gamecocks.
“We are going to South Africa for a training camp and all the details regarding the tour have just been finalised.
“We have been advised that we will play against Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits and our president Mr Jere (Farai) said Trott Moloto (Sundowns official) have advised him that there will be no problems in us playing his team when the South African season is in motion and they will try to assemble a competitive team for us in this friendly match.
“This training camp is crucial as it does not only give us a chance to field players in game like situations and assess them closely but it is also important for team-building and bonding of the whole team before the season starts,” said Chitembwe.
CAPS United today enter their fourth week of pre-season training and the former Warriors midfielder says he is happy with what his players are displaying at training.
“We are happy with what we are seeing in training and the match against Kabwe would be our first match under game situation. We would really want to see how the new players are under a game situation as well as the old players . . . It has been a long time since they played a competitive match.
“For now it is not really about competition but to get the players have a feel of the game situation. The first phase of our training has been about general fitness and we are happy with the fitness levels and in the coming weeks we will incorporate some tactics,” said Chitembwe.
This week, the team will be joined by the Warriors trio of Hardlife Zvirekwi, Stephen Makatuka and Joel Ngodzo at training after the players were given a week’s break by the coach following their return from the CHAN tournament in Rwanda.
Chitembwe has been working with a figure of 23 players at training and the return of the senior players will give him a full complement for the first time this season, a scenario which he feels is the right one to begin some practice matches with everyone in the fold.
CAPS United have also been busy shopping and have added eight new faces to their squad with Allen Gahadzikwa, Devon Chafa, Abbas Amidu, Tafadzwa Rusike and Cabby Kamhapa joining the team.
They have also strengthened their defence, acquiring former ZPC Kariba man Dennis Dauda while their former left back Ronald Pfumbidzai has also rejoined the club after a six-month stint in Denmark.
Big goalkeeper Edmore “Zikeeper” Sibanda also makes a return to the club.
“We have been working with about 23 players at training and the return of the three players from national duty in CHAN gives us the full squad.
“Mapemba is still training with the team and we are still assessing him although I am not sure about the slots now that we have a total squad of 25 players,” said Chitembwe.