Leopards will face off with Sudanese club Al Merreikh five weeks from now over the last weekend of June before playing the return leg at home in Limpopo on July 13-15, and by then the domestic league will still be a month away from re-opening.
After having just stopped training after the last League match on Saturday, Lidoda Duvha players will report back for pre-season on June 18 and then put up with the long flight to Sudan a week later as they seek to continue with their miraculous run in Africa.
Though Leopards players have been allowed to go on a deserved break after securing their PSL status for another season, they will have a tight training programme to follow.
Sunday Chidzambwa, who was the architect of the team’s return to the PSL, will oversee the team’s pre-season training after being given a vote of confidence to continue as head coach in the new season.
Last season Leopards also had a short off-season break after having to play in the Nedbank Cup Final and having to cope with an extended season in the Promotion/Relegation Play-Offs that dragged until June 18, forcing to have just a two-week break.
The shortened preparation time then threw Leopards in a situation where they were merely battling to stay up all season after winning just twice in their opening 15 games of the season.
Leopards will this year be faced with a twisted situation of where after playing against the Sudanese, they will have to wait almost a month before the local season starts.
However, if they succeed in overcoming El Merreikh they will then have two Group A games to play in the group matches every two months from August to October.
Chidzambwa has conceded that such a short break for the second year running presents challenges for them, but that they have to keep on pushing.
“We have given all players a programme to follow while they are away,” says the Zimbabwean coach.
The club has already confirmed that they have let go of Khethowakhe Masuku, S’phiwe Mkhonza and Tso Vilakazi, but will retain the majority of their players, including in-demand striker Kingston Nkatha.
Leopards will also venture into the market in a bid to also strengthen their squad.