Rangers must go for broke

Mind games, more than anything else, often prove the undoing of smaller clubs when they go up against the giants of South African football.

On Sunday both Manning Rangers and African Wanderers will have to think big if they are to score points against Orlando Pirates and Sundowns respectively.

"Rangers give the big names - Pirates, Chiefs and Sundowns - too much respect. In this league you don't need to show too much respect," said former Pirates striker Ian Palmer, who recently joined Rangers as their development manager.

He enjoyed three seasons in the black and white colours of the Buccaneers before a kidney ailment cut short his five-year professional career at the age of 22. By then he had already picked up a championship medal with PG Rangers as a teenager in the old National Soccer League. And, in the 1990/1 season, he was Pirates' top goalscorer with 22 goals, a club record that stood for almost 10 years until Zambian Denis Lota came along.

So he knows firsthand how Pirates easily take advantage of opponents who show them too much respect. Having turned his hand to coaching - he holds a level two coaching badge - Palmer is qualified to offer advice on how to beat his former team.

"If you give them too much space you're asking for big trouble. Someone must do a man-marking job on (midfielder) Benedict Vilakazi.

"At the back Papi (Khomane) is not a good ball-handler so if strikers put him under pressure the defence will crack. Clubs are analysing Pirates's weaknesses. They are rotating goalkeepers Okpara Williams and Michael Babale, but that's not entirely good. It changes the rhythm in defence," said Palmer of the Buccaneers' three-match winless run.

From the little he has seen of Rangers, Palmer believes they are competitive defensively, but must develop stronger character in midfield.

Midfield dominance will also be crucial when Wanderers tackle Sundowns in Pretoria. Wanderers coach Mlungisi Ngubane might be tempted to start Njabulo Khumalo in the middle of the park.

Weekend programme

Saturday: Black Leopards v SuperSport United, Thohoyandou Stadium; Bush Bucks v Hellenic, Absa Park, 3.30pm

Sunday: Chiefs v Santos, Olympia Park, Sundowns v Wanderers, Loftus Versfeld, 3.30pm; Manning Rangers v Pirates, Chatsworth Stadium, 3pm