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Ryan Rae

Thu 12 Mar by Mark Gleeson

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When Highlands Park host Mamelodi Sundowns in their Nedbank Cup quarterfinal on Saturday, they are likely to need warriors with steel rather than silky skills if they are to advance past The Brazilians.The thought that Highlands might pass and trick their way past Sundowns seems unlikely, instead it will be hard work, graft and mental strength that will see them to victory.That makes a player like Ryan Rae crucial to their cause, with his trademark physicality and long throws that are like set pieces all on their own.Rae, 28, played his first season of professional football in the 2014/15 campaign after arriving from the now defunct Mpumalanga Black Aces.It is fair to say that his first four seasons saw him used as a bit-part player as he made only 27 league appearances between 2014 and 2018.But all that changed when Highlands won promotion for the 2018/19 campaign and coach Owen da Gama realized he would need a hard grafter, who could make life difficult for the opposition playmakers.
Rae, who can also play in central defence and midfield, was that man and he has been a big part of their recent success that sees them on course for back-to-back top eight finishes, as well as an appearance in the MTN8 final earlier this campaign where they lost to SuperSport United.Not a prolific goal scorer, he has four in 81 matches in all competitions for the Lions of the North, Rae’s potency comes from his throw-ins.
He has taken to wearing gloves that help him grip the slippery ball, which have become something of a trademark for him, and Highlands fans love to chant ‘Mlungu!’ whenever he is on the ball.The Johannesburg-born Rae will have his work cut out against Sundowns’ array of stars this weekend but having reached one cup final already in this campaign, he has at least walked this path before.