Maulers on the rebound

Deon Naicker

Still reeling from the 5-0 thumping at the hands of Soweto giants Orlando Pirates the previous week, the Maulers headed into the windy Cape flats last Friday and subsequently capitulated to Sanlam Santos at Athlone. With tomorrows Rothmans Cup clash against Mother City (the newborn resulting from the Seven Stars/CT Spurs merger) Maulers coach Gordon Igesund is understandably considering a change of tactics.

Defensive frailties on the parts of Fees Moloi and Japhet Zwane were cruelly exposed by the marauding Bucaneers at the FNB stadium - and although it was quite obvious from the duos play a week ago that Igesund had worked intensively with them on their defensive play, the inexperience in defence was again subtlety exploited by the Santos middle-men who alternated clever runs down the left and through the middle of park to put Rangers under pressure leading to their two goals.

Credit however should be given to a spirited Rangers performance on the night - a far cry, from the disaster that transpired at the FNB stadium a fortnight ago. On a clear Cape evening, classic passing football was the order of the day as the ball passed to and fro between the two sides, both enjoying a clear share of possesion.

"We definately played better against Santos than against Pirates, " ruminated Igesund following the game, " but, unfortunately some crucial decisions did'nt go our way, which if it did could have changed the complexion of the game completely."

Indeed, Kerryn Jordan being brought down in the 24th minutes in a tackle from behind - with the referee out of sorts about 30m behind the portion of play - left a lot to be desired from the decision by the referee for the game to be played on. Decisions aside, it was the lack of seizing opportunities as well that sealed Rangers fate with Gilbert Mushangazike missing a header from point blank range in extra time with Santos keeper, Craig Mentz hopelessly stranded at the other end.

The events leading up that particular header, as well as the goals was interesting in itself with the ball coming in from the right, instead, as in most of Rangers moves from the left. While Zwane is undoubtedly a player of raw class and talent - he is perhaps, at times, finding himself a bit out of depth in the PSL, as he admits " the one difference between the First Division and the PSL which you notice immediately, is the pace of the game, the PSL is much faster and more demanding that the 1st Division ".

Perhaps, too much is expected of the 22-year old Zwane as his predecessor on the Rangers left wing Innocent Chikoya was rated as the best left wing back last season in the PSL. He does however need to work on his crosses as well - as much as he tried admirably, to whizzle his way past the Santos defence on occasions, his woeful crossing let him down much to the frustrations of his strikers.

Igesund, mindful of this, though intent on pressing with the exuberant playing style of Zwane and Moloi decided to change his playing style ahead of the Mother City clash - providing cover in defence for his wingpair and freeing them in a sense of their defensive responsibilities.

A plus point from the Santos game though was the spirited performance of new recruit Sipho Ndzuzo who played his heart out in the heart of the defence. Given a rough time by the Pirates hardmen, he bounced back well to put in crunching tackles and run up in support during attacking moves.

"Its clear that we're taking some time to adjust this season as we've basically got a whole new side, with new players and a new playing style. The lack of communication, is obviously there as you see sometimes during the game - but that is to be expected as the players are slowly getting to know each other, and each others playing styles. " admitted the coach.

And asked whether the style of play is going to change following the consecutive defeats ?

"No, it wont. Why should it ? The Pirates game was a disaster - lets not beat around the bush in respect to that. But if you look at the Santos game you would see that we're coming right. The football on the night was what we are striving to play all season - its just the little things that we have to get right now so that we can become a complete outfit."

Mother City however, are not going to be an easy task - with Ajax Cape Town reject Alton Meiring tearing apart Umtata Bucks on the same night at Greenpoint Stadium, they are not going to be the pushovers as many had suggested was indicative of their name. In giving the Eastern Cape side a merry hiding, Mother City are yet to be tested though outside of their Cape fortress whose testing winds have giving many a side a nightmare with the swirling unpredictable winds. Meiring however, could have a point to prove, as he guns for the recognition of national coach Trott Moloto and a place in Bafana Bafana.

Igesund however is confident for the game, "we've been playing the last couple of games with a makeshift squad with our first XI out for a number of reasons including work permits and injuries, but with everything sorted out now, our foreign contigent getting their work permits and Bradley Muir back fit from injury we should theoretically line up our strongest XI come Sunday."

Indeed, if things go according to plan for the Maulers - this Sundays trip to "The Den" could end up being a drought for Meiring, and a nightmare for City.