Siyanda Xulu has lauded Kopano Melesi and Sundowns players for effective periodization at AFCON

Siyanda Xulu has lauded Kopano Melesi and Sundowns players for effective periodization at AFCON

As Bafana Bafana head to their seventh and final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) game this evening, veteran defender Siyanda Xulu has lauded the team’s conditioning coach Kopano Melesi for the sterling role he’s played in keeping all the players fresh and ready for matches.

 Bafana play the Democratic Republic of Congo in the third and fourth-place game at Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny, with a bronze medal as the prize of the day. 

READ: Head of CAF technical study group Raul Chipenda, talks AFCON trends

Until Thapelo Maseko’s hamstring injury in the quarterfinals, Bafana had kept all their players on the pitch.

 Xulu says this talks to Melesi’ high-level training and conditioning programmes.

 ''I think the fact that we have been together for a very long time as a team, it wasn't something out of the norm. We have a very good conditioning coach Kopano, we have had him for a while -  I'm sure for him it's been easy to work with players he's familiar with,'' said Xulu. 

The demands of playing every three to four days can also be factored in here when discussing football periodization matters.

Xulu says the dominance of Mamelodi Sundowns players in this squad has also helped as they are used to these kinds of hectic schedules and the demands of the level as well.

  ''The fact that we have Sundowns players, like 80% of the squad. They are very much familiar with the occasion of playing back to back, it did help us a lot - in making sure that we are ready for games in a short space of time,'' added Xulu.

It’s been a very successful tournament for Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos and his team, coming to a competitive AFCON tournament with local based players, nobody gave them a chance that they could reach this stage.

Xulu, a SuperSport United defender, knows that with the next AFCON in Morocco next year and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers resuming in June, they must take this to the next level.

''As players we have to go back and relook at how the tournament has been for us, what we have managed to achieve and what we can achieve in the next tournament. At least now we have direction, we know where to go. It is a matter of believing in ourselves and taking it to the next level,'' he concluded.

As they wrap up the tournament against a tricky DRC side, a team that has only won one game at this AFCON but have been solid in their defense.

Xulu has more about their approach to tonight’s game, which he says will be special.