A well-built man sporting a beard similar to that of US rapper Rick Ross stands out among a group of Mamelodi Sundowns players at the club’s Chloorkop training grounds this week.
Fitness coach Kabelo Rangoaga has for many years been the figure the Sundowns technical staff turns to when it comes to combating the team’s recurring taxing fixture schedule.
The Absa Premiership champions are at it again, wedged between a tight domestic schedule and CAF Champions League engagements.
On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Rangoaga took players through drills as they prepared for yesterday’s quarterfinal clash against Egypt’s Al Ahly. Nothing too hectic – the exercise lasted for about 25 minutes.
Rangoaga (37) said this was the sort of approach that kept the players fresh, especially three days after an intense goalless league game against Orlando Pirates on Monday.
Five games await Sundowns in the next 18 days, including a trip to Egypt for the CAF fixture second leg on Saturday.
The team has already clocked 42 games in all competitions this season.
This includes long trips to Morocco (twice), Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
“We wrap the players in cotton wool and unleash them on match days,” Rangoaga told City Press as a way to justify his brief and mild session with players.
He later handed the team over to head coach Pitso Mosimane and his deputy, Manqoba Mngqithi, who oversaw an 11 versus 11 game on a full pitch.
Rangoaga said this season showed similarities to the situation three years ago, when Sundowns went all the way to win the Champions League.
“I would say this season is almost the same, if not more demanding. Remember, in one season we have played two Champions Leagues, so it’s been back-to-back compared with 2016,” he said in reference to the change in the scheduling of the premier club competition by the CAF.
The governing body has reconfigured the tournament to align with the August to May global club football season.
Sundowns started the current domestic season while they were already contesting the 2018 Champions League edition, where they failed to progress beyond the group stage.
“It’s been a challenge to plan for a congested programme like this one, but, so far so good,” said Rangoaga, who was recruited by Mosimane to Sundowns in September 2014.
“It starts in pre-season, where we prepare throughly for the Champions League until the final.
“Even if we don’t make it to the final, it is a bonus for us as we’ll be overprepared.”
After Sundowns’ last group stage game against Wydad Athletic in Morocco last month, the Brazilians were given the entire week off, which also coincided with the Fifa international break.
Rangoaga, who studied sports science, also noted the importance of maintaining a certain lifestyle to prevent being overwhelmed when a taxing programme – such as the one they are facing right now – pops up.
“The coach is big on that – that you have to live a clean lifestyle when you are a Sundowns player. If you want to get along with coach Pitso, your life must be football.”
In turn, Mosimane raved that KB – as Rangoaga is called – was as important as the players.
“He looks after the bodies of the players, never mind the training, and keeps them in top shape,” he told City Press.
“So, this thing of physical trainers is no longer the same – it has taken a different complexion. But you need to have a person who is qualified as a football-specific trainer.
“For instance, he’s able to tell me, ‘Coach, this guy must not play a full match’ and I would say, ‘but retla jewa [we’ll lose the game]’, and he’ll point out that I might not have that particular player for three or four weeks if I disregard his advice – all this based on the fitness levels of a player. I have to understand.
“The good thing is I have done the same course that he did. If you don’t understand him, you’d think this guy has an agenda to make me lose games.”
Rangoaga, who hails from a mining village outside Rustenburg in North West called Mosenthal, is a regular at international football seminars.
These meetings of football experts involve coaches, trainers and sports medical personnel.
Rangoaga, who did a presentation on the CAF Champions League in Belgium last year, will attend the next gathering in Croatia later this year.
He said the gains were immeasurable, as being at these events helped him to keep abreast of the latest trends in his field.