When Stuart Baxter announced his Bafana Bafana squad for the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria, the Super Eagles will surely be delighted that Tokelo Rantie was absent from the 23.
During the Afcon qualifying campaign for the 2015 edition, the new Cape Town City man scored three goals in two appearances against the 2013 champions.
On 19 November 2014, Rantie tore away from the helpless Raheem Lawal and also powerfully shoulder-charged him to the ground as he made his way past Efe Ambrose, sprinted past Azubuike Egwuekwe, before firing – at the near post – high into Vincent Enyeama’s net to silence the Uyo crowd.
As if that was not enough, moments after the break, Rantie’s strength and bustling speed outdid Kenneth Omeruo as he unceremoniously bundled the defender to the ground, before he fired past Enyeama, again, with aplomb.
It was no different when these two clashed again in the first leg of the current qualifying campaign on 10 June 2017, as Rantie once again capitalised and punished Nigeria’s sloppy defending in the 2-0 loss.
Despite Nigeria’s convincing dominance in this fixture, with seven wins, four draws and two losses, the South Africans have always possessed a threat of some sort, with Rantie being the key threat in recent fixtures.
Benni McCarthy, Shaun Bartlett, Sibusiso Zuma and Siyabonga Nomvethe are some of the names that have always been highlighted heading to this fixture in the recent past, and going to this Group E encounter, the hosts once again have a name worth causing any opposition sleepless nights.
Lebo Mothiba of Ligue 1 side Strasbourg has been identified as the man who will potentially eclipse McCarthy’s long-standing record of 31 goals for the 1996 African champions.
Mothiba has been in red-hot form for Strasbourg since his arrival from Lille on a three-year contract for $4.4 million on transfer deadline day, and has hit six goals in 10 appearances for Le Racing so far.
His tally for the season stands at seven goals [one goal scored while still at Lille] in 12 appearances.
Standing at 1.82 metres tall, the Tembisa-born forward can certainly match the Nigerians’ physical presence and strength, while he has also proved to be clinical with his head; two of his goals thus far have come from headers.
He is also equally clinical with his feet, netting four times with his right foot and once with his left.
7 – The seven shots on target attempted by Lebo Mothiba in Ligue 1 this season :
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) November 5, 2018
More bad news for the Super Eagles is that the forward also brings his scoring boots with him to the national team. He recently created a piece of history in the 6-0 drubbing of Seychelles last month, when he became the first player to score in his first three games for Bafana.
Perhaps Rohr could consult ex-Super Eagles skipper Joseph Yobo, who endured both delight and dishonour when he came up against the legendary England marksman Alan Shearer. South Africa’s new gem has, after all, been likened to the former Newcastle United great by Baxter.
South Africa can’t don’t have Rantie in their ranks for this heavyweight showdown, but in Mothiba, Nigeria could be about to be introduced to another red-hot nemesis.