JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter on Thursday named Tokelo Rantie in his 25-man squad to face Nigeria in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, bringing him out of the cold after the striker failed to report for national team duty seven months ago.
Under then coach Shakes Mashaba, who was sacked in December, Rantie had to be withdrawn from the travelling team to face Burkina Faso in October at the 11th hour, apparently because the player had no real interest in travelling to Ouagadougou for the side’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier.
This wasn’t long after he’d signed for Turkish club Gençlerbirliği from English Premier League outfit Bournemouth, where he was struggling for game time – yet still backed by Mashaba to do a job for Bafana.
The South African Football Association (Safa) threatened to throw the book at Rantie, but to no avail, although he was left out of the two friendly matches against Guinea-Bissau and Angola in March, with Owen da Gama as caretaker coach.
“His discipline issues were before my time,” said Baxter. “I have seen him play against Nigeria before and he scared them. If he is motivated, he can do a job for us.”
The coach has also brought back Bongani Zungu and Thamsanqa Gabuza, while Cape Town City star duo Lebogang Manyama and Aubrey Ngoma were rewarded for stellar seasons too.
Bafana Bafana squad:
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Ronwen Williams, Darren Keet.
Defenders: Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Erick Mathoho, Lorenzo Gordinho, Abbubaker Mobara, Tebogo Langerman, Sifiso Hlanti.
Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana, Keagan Dolly, Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Dean Furman, Themba Zwane, Bongani Zungu, Aubrey Ngoma.
Strikers: Sibusiso Vilakazi, Percy Tau, Lebogang Manyama, Tokelo Rantie, Thamsanqa Gabuza, Kermit Erasmus.