Johannesburg - Vladimir Vermezovic admits Orlando Pirates will need to have a shift in mentality when they head to Bidvest Wits for a crucial Premiership clash in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
"It looks like our guys are afraid of mistakes and play without confidence," Vermezovic said of his outfit, who travel to Wits having claimed a 2-1 win over the Clever Boys in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
"When they play and score a goal their confidence is up, and they show they can play.
"I don’t know what is going on. Maybe they are waiting for the end of the season because it has been long for them."
It has been a disappointing season for Pirates, who struggled to balance a tough Caf Champions League assignment with their domestic commitments, while also getting to know their new coach, who joined the Buccaneers in February.
Vermezovic has had somewhat of an up-and-down start to his tenure, with the Sea Robbers managing just one win in their last five games, and Vermezovic just three wins after nine games in charge.
As the curtains close on another Premiership season, things are heating up at both the top and bottom of the table. However, it is the battle for the top four places that will be the most hotly contested.
Only four points separate Mpumalanga Black Aces in fourth and AmaZulu in ninth, with Pirates set to battle it out with Aces for the all-important fourth place, which hands an easier draw during the next campaign’s MTN8 competition.
Pirates have the chance to move back into fourth and have two games in hand over Aces, who lead Pirates by two points. A win would send them above Amazayoni, who are not in action this week and only have one game left to play this season.
"Mistakes happen in football as in life, and they make mistakes on the field, but they have to be free and enjoy the game - they are good players," Vermezovic said.
The Serbian coach will have to improve Pirates’ underwhelming form away from home, with just 16 points from their 12 fixtures outside of the Orlando Stadium, while Wits will look to extend a solid run of form, which has seen them unbeaten in their last seven league outings.
Wits coach Gavin Hunt, having already all but secured a third-place finish, has been a man on a mission with the club he joined at the beginning of the season, steering the Students to three wins in their last five games.
Despite the superb turnover of points, Hunt looks unlikely to catch second-placed Kaizer Chiefs, who lead Wits by four points and are almost out of reach as the season nears its conclusion.
Chiefs are also in action on Wednesday and travel to Bethlehem, where a tricky Free State Stars lie in wait.
Stuart Baxter’s men were held to an entertaining goalless draw with Wits in their last outing, dealing a final blow to their chances of defending their Premiership title, as log-leading Mamelodi Sundowns look to have wrapped up a comfortable run-in to the title.
Baxter’s men meet a determined Stars outfit, who are dead-set on retaining their Premiership status. However, Stars look likely to be dragged into a relegation battle and could be absent from the country’s top-tier next season.