Rayners, Mabasa race to rewrite PSL history

IQRAAM Rayners of Stellenbosch FC with 14 goals. | BackpagePix

IQRAAM Rayners of Stellenbosch FC with 14 goals. | BackpagePix

Published May 5, 2024


THE death of Lesley Manyathela in 2003 left the football fraternity dumbfounded as he was in fine form for Orlando Pirates and had a bright future.

The PSL paid homage to the fallen star by renaming the season’s top goal-scorer award the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot award that campaign.

Since then strikers from all walks of life have been competing to win the award in the 30-game season.

There’s been a foreign dominance, with Zambian Collins Mbesuma and Namibian Peter Shalulile scoring the most goals in a season – 25 and 23 – respectively.

The duo are the only players that have won the award twice in more than two decades.

Former Bafana Bafana striker Siyabonga Nomvethe is third on the list behind Mbesuma and Shalulile, having scored 20 goals in the 2011/12 season during his stint with Moroka Swallows.

Nomvethe, who also leads the PSL top goal-scorer charts with 123 goals, is perhaps the epitome of what Manyathela would have been. After all, Manyathela had scored 18 league goals the previous season before that fateful Saturday night near his hometown of Musina en-route to seeing his mother.

The winds of change seem to be blowing this campaign, with two locals hoping to at least match Manyathela’s best scoring tally in a season.

Iqraam Rayners leads the pack with 14 goals after 26 league games and is one goal ahead of Tshegofatso Mabasa.

Brazilian Lucas Ribeiro is one goal behind Mabasa, having been on form for newly crowned champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

However, for the locals, it’s exciting to see Stellenbosch’s Rayners and Pirates’ Mabasa leading the chart. After all, locals have seen SA players struggle to break the 15-goal tally while other strikers left the PSL mid-season only to return at the end to collect the award.

Bernard Parker scored 10 goals in the 2013/14 season, while Chris Katongo scored 15 goals, left for Sweden and returned after the season to collect his award.

Rayners and Mabasa bring a special ingredient in their clubs’ race to finish in second spot and qualify for the Champions League.

Stellies hold pole position in that regard – coach Steve Barker’s men lead Pirates by three points with four games to play.

Rayners has been a driving force in that lead, the 28-year-old scoring six goals in the last two games – including five in the 5-0 hammering of Polokwane City.

Rayners’ ‘fifer’ (in cricket terms) against City saw him become only the second PSL player after James Chamanga to score five goals in one game.

The Zambian’s record, whilst on the books of Swallows, stood for 17 years. Chamanga sent a special message to Rayners.

“I know you don’t know me … maybe you know me as the former Swallows player who scored five goals in one game,” he said on Stellies’ social media platforms.

“I just wanted to congratulate you and say well done. You have done it. After 17 years, you have matched my record. My brother, I want to say keep going.”

Indeed, that’s what Rayners will be hoping to do. Or else, he’ll run the risk of losing out on the award to Mabasa who’s enjoying his best season as well.

Mabasa returned to Pirates from a loan period at Swallows in January, having scored six league goals, and he followed that up with seven more since then.

That’s some return for the 27-year-old who has been shining for his childhood club.

“That’s exactly what I bring into the table … goals, linking up play with my teammates and this is what I’m going to do for the remainder of the season,” he said in March.

Rayners and Mabasa’s form don’t only auger well for their teams’ top two bid but also for Bafana Bafana’s World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Nigeria next month.