Rantie: South Africa’s Key Man
As South Africans eagerly await the kick off of the African Cup of Nations, some individuals whose performances have played no small part in changing the fortunes of the team will be expected to shoulder the burdens of collective hope and spearhead Bafana Bafana’s mission in Equatorial Guinea.
While much of coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba’s progress with the team so far has been based on his boldness to emphasize youth, form and team spirit over experience and pedigree, certain players have been able to adapt completely to his philosophy and tactics. Subsequently, their individual contributions have been vital in the team’s improved performances and results over the past six months.
Of these, one person stands out—Tokelo Rantie.
Since making his debut in 2012, Rantie has scored seven goals in 27 appearances for the team.
While this record may not seem particularly remarkable, it is, however, noteworthy that four of those were scored in his six appearances in the AFCON qualification series. As the team’s highest goal scorer in the qualifying series-with four out of the team’s nine goals, Rantie has proven himself to be a most vital and dependable component of Mashaba’s collection, with praiseworthy performances home and away.
Physically, the Bournemouth player does not seem intimidating, but what he lacks in size and fancy footwork, he more than makes up for in stamina and fearlessness while taking on defenders. His pace, strength and no-nonsense approach to the business of goal scoring was a menace to defenders all through the qualifiers, while his knack for taking long shots would give the team more scoring options in Equatorial Guinea.
Rantie has so far thrived in Mashaba’s set up being deployed largely as a direct centre forward, from where he takes on centre-backs with his pace and strength, thereby creating openings for himself or other team mates, or, as seen against Nigeria in Uyo, forcing errors, which he mercilessly exploits.
After much of the fancy build up from defence to midfield and attack, a rugged approach towards goalscoring will be vital if South Africa are to get the better of Algeria, Ghana and Senegal in the Group of Death.
Rantie exudes ruggedness—a priceless attribute in the African game.
He may not be a household name yet, but then, neither was a certain Emmanuel Emenike prior to South Africa 2013.
Whoever thinks he can’t be South Africa’s version of Emenike does so at his own peril… and to Rantie’s advantage.
by Tijjani Abdulsalam