Rayners eager to repay Broos’ faith

Iqraam Rayners is hoping to build on his 15-goal form in the DStv Premiership for Bafana in the coming games against Nigeria and Zimbabwe. | BackpagePix

Iqraam Rayners is hoping to build on his 15-goal form in the DStv Premiership for Bafana in the coming games against Nigeria and Zimbabwe. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 5, 2024


Smiso Msomi

Stellenbosch FC striker Iqraam Rayners is eager to justify his inclusion in Bafana Bafana’s squad as they step up their preparations for two World Cup qualifying matches.

The South African senior men’s national team face powerhouses Nigeria away from home in Uyo on Friday before returning home to host Zimbabwe at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday next week.

Nkosinathi Sibisi, left, coach Hugo Bross and Iqraam Rayners. | BackpagePix

Rayners, who has had his best season in the top flight for Stellies, is one of two traditional centre-forwards picked by head coach Hugo Broos in the final 23-man squad for these vital matches with Burnley’s Lyle Forster also returning.

The 28-year-old sharpshooter scored 15 goals and recorded two assists for his club in the DStv Premiership in the recently concluded season and was pipped to the Golden Boot by Orlando Pirates man Tshegofatso Mabasa, who scored 16.

However, Broos elected to keep his faith in Rayners despite Mabasa’s rich vein of form in the second half of the season. Rayners will be attending his second consecutive camp under Broos having been part of the team that played Andorra and Algeria in the Fifa Series in March and gave a good account of himself.

The Cape Town-born goal poacher has vowed to do everything in his power to ensure Broos’ decision to recall him is justified.

“I thank the coach for believing in me,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to be here.

“I have the confidence to do what he asks me to. I’ll do it, and I’m happy to be here.

“I’ll do my best to repay his confidence in me. It’s all about working hard; I never expected that I would be part of the national team set-up.”

SA’s best will line up against a star-studded Nigeria.

Despite missing the exploits of African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen through injury, the Super Eagles will still boast an abundance of talent in defence and attack.

Europa League 2024 final hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman will lead the likes of Leicester City’s Wilfied Ndidi and Kealechi Iheanacho as the 2023 Afcon finalists look to get their qualifying journey back on track.

“It’s not easy to play at this level compared to the PSL. This is international level,” Rayners said.

“So, this a great opportunity for me to test myself against the best on the continent, especially against the players of Nigeria, who play for big clubs in Europe. For me, it’s a great opportunity to be here. I have the confidence to do what the coach asks me to do.”

Bafana are second in Group C after their 2-1 victory over Benin, but their surprise 2-0 defeat to Rwanda has put them under pressure.

Rayners revealed that Broos had targeted a win and a draw in the next two matches, given the difficulty of a trip to the Super Eagles. But the striker revealed that he and his teammates will be looking to cause an upset.

“If we can’t win, we must at least get a point in Nigeria. As the coach said, he wants four points from these two games but we will try to get six points ... This is football and anything can happen, we might steal the game in the last minutes in Nigeria. You saw what happened at the weekend (between Orlando Pirates and Sundowns).”

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