By Sazi Hadebe
Manning Rangers visit Free State Stars at the Charles Mopeli Stadium in the Free State on Sunday with a worrying thought on their minds.
It hasn't been plain sailing for the Mighty Maulers after two-away trips yielded only one point. They went down 3-1 to Moroka Swallows and followed this up with a hard- earned 1-1 draw against Santos.
After Sunday's clash against seventh-placed Stars, Rangers face another gruelling away task with a visit to current log leaders, Jomo Cosmos, at Olympia Park in Rustenburg next Sunday.
A point gained on Sunday will not be good enough for Rangers to travel to Rustenburg with a feeling of real confidence. But if Rangers draw both games, their hopes of finally moving out of the dreaded relegation zone will be boosted ahead of their only remaining home game this month, against Classic.
The Maulers, whose chances of surviving, now also depend on how other relegation candidates - African Wanderers, Bloemfontein Celtic and Moroka Swallows - perform over the coming weeks, will complete the month with a daunting journey to champions Sundowns on February 25.
"It's a tough month for us," admitted Rangers' skipper Sipho Ndzuzo.
"Certainly our chances of surviving also depend on how we do in all these away matches.
"Earning a point in each of them won't be a bad thing, although it goes without saying that we need to collect full points in every match we play now," he said.
After the Sundowns match, Ndzuzo feels his team will still have a good a chance of beating the drop to the First Division, considering they will still have Kaizer Chiefs, Wanderers, Wits University, Celtic and Hellenic to play at home.
In their 11 remaining matches, Rangers need a least 25 points to add to the 15 they have gained in 23 matches to make sure they remain in the premiership.
So, earning three or more points in three away matches, including one against Lamontville Golden Arrows, whom they face after the Sundowns match, will be crucial to Rangers' survival chances.
"We might be at the bottom at the moment, but we feel our chances of surviving are as good as any of the teams we are struggling against," said Ndzuzo.
Wanderers, meanwhile, will continue hunting for points to save themselves as well when they host Classic at Princess Magogo Stadium on Sunday.
Abaqulusi caretaker coach Greg Farrell will rue meeting the Classic outfit without defender Sifiso Gcaba and wide midfielder Welcome Mazibuko, who both needlessly earned red cards against Arrows last weekend.
Arrows will make certian of remaining in the top half only if they beat Supersport United at the Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria on Sunday.
Former Bush Bucks coach Jani Simulambo, who joined Arrows as technical adviser early this week, makes his debut in Abafana Besithende's coaching department.
The Zambian-born and former Swaziland national coach was last seen in the premiership last year after being sacked by Bucks after having guided them to ninth place in the 1999/2000 season.
Saturday - 3pm: Ria Stars v Wits University (Seshego); 4pm: Orlando Pirates v Santos (Vosloorus).
Sunday - 3.30pm: Supersport United v Lamontville Golden Arrows (Caledonian);
Free State Stars v Manning Rangers (Charles Mopeli); Ajax Cape Town v Kaizer Chiefs (Newlands);
Moroka Swallows v Sundowns (Rand Stadium);
4pm: African Wanderers v Classic (Princess Magogo).
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