Cape Town - Bafana Bafana striker, Tokelo Rantie, discuss life in England, the impact of Shakes Mashaba and his soccer idols in an exclusive interview with Sport24.
Rantie made his debut for Bafana Bafana against Botswana in a World Cup qualifier in June 2012 and scored his first international goal in the next match, a 3-0 win against Gabon in an international friendly.
The Bournemouth striker played a massive role in South Africa's AFCON 2015 qualification where he scored four of the nine goals scored by Bafana Bafana.
Rantie moved to English Championship side, Bournemouth, on 28 August 2013 for a fee in the region of £2.5 million.
Sport24 posed a few questions to the talented 24-year-old striker to find out more about how the player has settled down in England, his views on the national team's success and which player he would most like to play alongside in the current game.
Sport24: How are you enjoying the challenges of playing in England?
Tokelo Rantie: It’s not easy as the conditions are different to RSA but I am adjusting very well, getting better with time. I am enjoying my stay and my football is improving all the time, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here.
I miss my family though, been away from them is difficult but it will all be worth it in the end.
S24: What’s the biggest footballing difference between England and South Africa?
TR: The pace of the game is much quicker obviously because of the weather conditions. Also, the game is quicker because the decision making of players is on a higher level. Another thing that they do well here is paying specific attention to every players training needs, ie, strikers have a lot of their training practicing together on their scoring etc and similarly defenders train for their specific needs.
So it’s less general and more specific training, which is good for players confidence and I can see the improvement in my game because of this.
In the championship league, the only measure of a team is promotion, so how well and beautifully a team plays Is secondary, the primary objective is ascending to the EPL.
Tokelo Rantie on the move for Bournemouth
S24: Can you think of one specific reason why Bafana Bafana are playing so well?
TR: It’s very difficult to pinpoint just 1 reason when a team has improved so much, but the coach has to take a lot of credit, he has transformed the team. He has his way with players; every player wants to give everything when playing for him.
He has managed to give every player out there hope that when they do well wherever they are, their efforts will not be ignored.
S24: Can you describe the kind of support you as well as the national team have been getting?
TR: It’s been great, everywhere we go we feel appreciated. We know it’s all down to the positive results that we have been getting and the fans are feeding off this positivity. We are a young team and should not take this positive feedback to our heads, we must always remember where we were a few months back and how hard we have worked as a team to get here.
Also, while everyone is singing our praises, the reality is that there are far bigger challenges that await us in the future, starting with AFCON 2015. So we need to be calm and very humble and do our utmost best at all time.
Tokelo Rantie in action for Bafana Bafana
S24: Who was your soccer hero growing up?
TR: Benni McCarthy - for young up and coming strikers he was the ultimate. I was fortunate to play with him at Orlando Pirates, where he played a huge part in my progress there. A true gent and giant of SA football.
S24: Which current striker would you love to play with now (Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Lewandowski, Falcao etc)?
TR: Mario Ballotelli - for all the criticism he endures on and off the pitch, he has showed incredible growth. A lot of young players can learn a lot from him. Sergio Aguero is also a special talent.
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