Auckland - Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie has urged his national teammates to look beyond the borders of South Africa and expand their playing careers by moving abroad and plying their trade in Europe and elsewhere.
"Since we started this camp, I’ve been talking to the guys.
"I’ve been telling them that they seem to me more relaxed here in South Africa," Rantie said in Auckland on Wednesday evening, while the team prepared for an international friendly against the All Whites on Friday.
"Why can’t you guys go to Europe so that we know that we have a powerful national team?"
Rantie came from humble beginnings and started his career at the Stars of Africa Academy between 2009 and 2013, when he was loaned to Orlando Pirates and Swedish side Malmo FF, with which he later signed a permanent contract.
Now a full-fledged international, Rantie shot to regional fame in England on signing for English Championship side AFC Bournemouth.
Rantie benefited from his time overseas and quickly became South Africa’s premier striker, tasked with leading the attack for Bafana.
Now, Rantie hopes more South African players will make the move abroad both to further their careers and bringing back international experience and development to Bafana.
An increased number of regular starters have begun plying their trade outside South Africa.
"If (you) look at other countries, a player can go to Europe at the age of 17 and then when we play against them, we can’t match them because they are getting all the training, all the necessary assistance in Europe," Rantie said.
"So, I’ve been encouraging some of them to take it."
He had plenty of praise for his young teammates, who look set to become key members as South Africa ushers in a new era of soccer with a youthful squad hungry for results.
"The spirit is very impressive. We’re like brothers now," Rantie said.
"We are so close: to the point where we know how to help each other, how to talk to each other. This is actually the first time that I feel like one of the guys.
"This is where I believe that, with a young group, it’s possible to achieve anything.
"The guys are hungry, some of the guys received their call-ups for the first time, so obviously they will want to impress the coach, so that boosts us."
Joined by Thulani Serero, Rantie is primed to take ownership of his striking role within the team.
He also looks set to aid the rest of a growing list of overseas-based players in leading the country towards the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
"This has been one of the best moments that I’ve seen the national team in.
"I’m happy that young players are coming in now, which is more importantly an advantage.
"They’re more hungry than the guys who’ve (been in the squad in the past)."
Despite often being subject to a barrage of negativity for their performances on the international stage, the 23-year-old striker believes the country is behind the team and is buying into the new vision for the national outfit.
"Criticism will always be there in football.
"It’s how we take them that actually make us victorious.
"I think people will criticise you because they know you can do better.
"I don’t think there’ll be anyone who just comes and talks bad about you, not knowing what you can do.
"We need to give credit to the South Africans who have been criticising us, because they are helping us, they can see that we can do better."
He expressed a desire to repay the faith shown in him by coach Gordon Igesund, who has stuck by his side in the past two years and helped mould him into a formidable threat upfront for Bafana.
"It’s an honour to represent your country and to be given the opportunities is extremely massive, so for me to play where I want to be, for me to play where I’m happy to play, shows that the coach has faith in you.
"To be given the chance to play, you need to always make sure that you repay that faith that the coach has put in you," he said.