The 10 best white South African players
Posted: 24 June 2011 Time: 12:43 pm
Earlier this week Katlego Mphela said he wants to see more white players in the national team, because they bring a different element to the game.
His statement got everybody talking – so KickOff.com has compiled a list of the best white South African players in the last 25 years.
The criteria were that the player must have been born in South Africa, and must have played in the last 25 years.
Do you agree with our selection? Have we – heaven forbid – left anybody out?
10. Shane MacGregor
He was once a target of boo-boys as he struggled to find his footing in his early Chiefs days – after joining from PG Rangers in 1988 – but by the time he left the club in 1994 ‘Baba Shane’ was regarded as one of Amakhosi’s best strikers of all time.
He formed half of a powerful strike force with Fani Madida in Chiefs’ title-winning side of 1992, being the target-man for the nippy, skilful Madida to play off.
But he scored his fair-share as well.
He was a veritable goal machine during his three-and-half year spell at Rangers in the NSL era, and helped the “unfashionable” club win the NSL championship in 1986.
MacGregor scored over 20 goals in a season four times – for Rangers in 1985, 1986 (27) and 1987 (23), and for Chiefs in 1991 (25).
MacGregor always did great work off the ball, and had a habit of getting into the area and finding space where he could cause damage.
He managed one South Africa cap, when past his best, but made 169 club starts, for Rangers, Kaizer Chiefs, Pretoria City and SuperSport United.
9. Dillon Sheppard
Hugely loved by the crowd at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in his Bafana debut against Mauritius in 2000, because of his deft township skill, Sheppard is one of the most successful products of the School of Excellence ever.
Sheppard started out at Seven Stars, before playing over 100 matches for Ajax Cape Town. Moves to Dynamo Moscow in Russia and Panionios in Greece followed, before he returned to South Africa, joining Mamelodi Sundowns in 2006.
Blessed with a terrific left-foot, ‘Sheppy’ can play all across midfield, and his free-kicks and first touch are world class.
He moved on to Platinum Stars in 2009, but never cemented his place in the side, mainly because of injury, and it looks like they will be letting him go.
Sheppard’s career has been blighted by injury – better protection from referees may have seen him make more of it.
Sheppard, Bradley Carnell, Junaid Hartley, Steve Lekoelea and Delron Buckley all represented South Africa at Under-17, -20, -23, and senior level.
8. Matthew Booth
‘Booooooth’ was born in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, and played just under 100 matches for Cape Town Spurs before a move to Mamelodi Sundowns in 1999.
He immediately made his presence felt in the team, and endeared himself to the fans. Against Hellenic, in November, Booth scored twice as the Brazilians won 4-2, and was a vital cog in defence as Sundowns surged towards the League title.
The imposing defender captained Amaglug-glug at the 2000 Olympics, where they beat Brazil 3-1 in a match described by coach Shakes Mashaba, perhaps hyperbolically, as “the greatest achievement in the country's soccer history”.
A short, unsuccesful, loan spell at Wimbledon in England followed in 2001, before he carved out a succesful career in Russia at Rostov and Krylia Sovetov.
Booth moved back to South Africa, and Sundowns, just in time to star for Bafana at the 2009 Confederations Cup, where calls of ‘Booooooth’ where mistaken for boos by foreign fans.
The defender was out of favour by the time the World Cup rolled around, and was recently let go by Downs after an extended period out with injury.
7. Eric Tinkler
Tinkler started out as an attacking and goalscoring left-back for Wits University, before moving to Europe in the early 1990s.
He is probably best remembered as a tenacious holding midfielder for Bafana Bafana, playing alongside Linda ‘Mercedes Benz’ Buthelezi at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both were tough-tackling players, the difference between them being that Tinkler packed a powerful shot, and was more likely to try his luck at goal from range.
He was specifically picked out by Pele as the best player of the Afcon – a comment which prompted his move from Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal to Italian Serie A club Cagliari.
After a difficult season in Italy he moved to newly-promoted Barnsley in England, but the club was relegated, and Tinkler played First Division football until he retired.
Tinkler accumulated 46 caps (and one great goal) in a stop-start Bafana career, and captained South Africa at the Nations Cup in Mali, taking over from the injured Shaun Bartlett.
6. Hans Vonk
When Hans Vonk was first called up to the national squad, a Sunday paper labelled him an “unknown” and a “palooka” – he was neither, as regular KICK OFF readers already knew.
We had reported on Dutch team Waalwijk’s South African-born goalie in 1995, and Vonk went on to keep goal for Bafana at France 98. Many thought he should have done the same in 2002, but he was kept on the bench by Andre Arendse.
Vonk was Heerenveen’s rock in Holland from 1996 to 2004 – under recently-departed Ajax Cape Town coach Foppe de Haan – and later represented Ajax Amsterdam in two separate stints, separated by two season at Ajax Cape Town.
He retired from international football in 2005, with 43 caps, and just retired from competitive football at the age of 40.
5. Bradley Carnell
Carnell became the youngest League player ever when he debuted for Wits University at 16 years, 15 days in 1993 – a record since broken by Steve Lekoelea and then Mkhanyiseli Siwahla for Ajax Cape Town.
He is also the youngest South African to score a winning goal in a cup final at FNB Stadium, scoring a brace for Wits against Chiefs in the 1995 BP Top 8 Cup Final, aged 18.
One of those goals is remembered by many fans as one of the best goals ever scored – hit over his shoulder with his back to goal, from wide on the right.
Carnell was good moving forward and could deliver a telling cross into the box, but was also cool and calm in defence. He had that rare ability to cover the whole left flank.
But ‘The Blond Bombshell’ never completely cemented his place in Bafana Bafana – because of injuries, being overlooked and disagreements with Safa – and has never been fully appreciated by South African fans.
He was probably more celebrated as a teenager – because of his wingplay and that brace against Chiefs – than at any other stage in his career, which has taken in two Bundesliga clubs and the World Cup.
He returned to South Africa to play for SuperSport United in 2010, but it looks like they may let him go this off-season.
4. Neil Tovey
For 10 years Tovey was the hero of Amakhosi, who loved his fighting spirit and steadying influence, but he will be best remembered for leading Bafana Bafana to Nations Cup victory in 1996.
‘Codessa’ was already 30 when South Africa returned to international football, but he became the mainstay of the national team, and as captain lifted the African Unity trophy in front of Madiba before an ecstatic Soccer City.
The central midfielder turned sweeper won back-to-back NSL titles alongside his brother Mark at Durban City in ’82 and ’83, before moving to AmaZulu, then Kaizer Chiefs.
‘Mkhukhu’ was dropped from Bafana at the end of 1997, but played on another two seasons at Chiefs, before retiring as a player with over 550 club matches to his name.
He captained every team he played for from the age of six.
3. Mark Tovey
Many older fans still argue that Mark Tovey was even better than his more famous younger brother Neil.
Tovey senior was a small sweeper with a big heart. He was a superb reader of the game and his distribution was second to none.
The pacey central defender started out at NFL outfit Durban United at just 16, but starred for the great Durban Bush Bucks side of 1985 and then for Chiefs in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Tovey was a great leader and captained Durban City, Durban Bush Bucks, Casio Dynamos and Kaizer Chiefs, before retiring from his job as player-manager of Manning Rangers in 1992 at 37.
Tovey first won the Federation League and Cup double with Durban City in 1978, and continued his fine form as City captured back-to-back NPSL First Division titles in 1982 and ’83 under Clive Barker.
He won the 1985 NSL, with a City team nicknamed ‘The Untouchables’, and won the 1987 JPS, after a replay, against Orlando Pirates, and was voted Man of the Series.
Later, at Chiefs, Tovey helped groom a young Lucas Radebe as a sweeper.
2. Noel Cousins
Cousins was nicknamed ‘Phinda Mzala’ – “do it again cousin” – and in his easy manner he scored a bucketful of goals for both Arcadia and Moroka Swallows, for most of the 1980s, being awarded Player’s Player of the Year in 1987.
‘Express’ was strong in the air, but very sharp on the ground and a clinical finisher. He had pace on the ball which allowed him to turn defenders, and a keen eye for goal.
Cousins’ 21 goals in 1983 earned him the coveted Richleigh Shoes Golden Boot award, and by the time he left Arcadia Shepherds in 1989 for a record-breaking fee of R110 000 he had become only the second Arcadian (after Basil Johnson) to net over 100 pro goals.
The superstar striker scored 13 League goals in 15 appearances for Arcadia in 1989, before moving to Swallows halfway through the campaign – where he got another eight League goals and helped The Birds hammer Sundowns 5-1 to win the Mainstay Cup.
1. Mark Fish
‘Feeeesh’ was probably the most popular white man in South Africa in 1996 – and is the best white player in South Africa’s recent history.
He was first capped for Bafana Bafana at 19, and just two years later helped them win the Africa Cup of Nations.
In 1993, as a teenager, Fish was part of the Jomo Cosmos squad, boasting Helman Mkhalele, Linda Buthelezi, Lawrence Siyangaphi, Thomas Madigage and Innocent Mncwango.
Despite all this talent, they deﬁed belief by getting relegated, although they also reached the semi-finals of the African Cup Winners’ Cup.
So good were some of those players that three of them – Fish, Mkhalele and Buthelezi – starred for Orlando Pirates as they won the League just a year later.
Fish became youngest winner of the Players’ Player of the Year award in 1994.
He went on to play at South Africa’s first World Cup, France 98, by which time he was already established in Europe.
Fish played at Lazio in Serie A before becoming the highest paid player at Bolton Wanderers in England, then moving to Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town before retiring at the relatively young age of 31.
But it is as a Pirates player that Fish made his name, as a vital member of the great side of 1994-1995 that won the League and the African Champions Cup.
He turned down a move to his boyhood club Manchester United in order to help Bucs win the title in 1994, and in so doing Fish earned the undying respect of club chairman Irvin Khoza, and of 'The Ghost'.
5 most underrated white players (in best-to-worst order)
David Byrne – North American football got the best out of the son of Budgie Burne, an intelligent scheming midfielder, with brilliant free-kicks in his repertoire. Rodney Bush – Like Mark Tovey he rose to prominence during the late 1970s, but he was still an effective midfielder and a personality player in the early years of the NSL. As a player-coach he led Swallows to the Final of the JPS in 1986.
Grant Young – A pacey stiker/winger who, like Byrne, was underrated because his South African career was in Cape Town with Hellenic. He had a short spell in Belgium in the mid-90s, before moving to New Zealand. Made a solitary appearance for South Africa as a substitute in a 1-0 loss against Australia in 1994.
George Dearnaley – Top-scored while at AmaZulu with 23 goals, but soon left for the USA. His career on his return was severly hampered by a bad knee injury.
Michael Araujo – Could have been one of South Africa’s greats. He had a bag of skill – but took most of it to North America.
Jimmy ‘Brixton Tower’ Joubert Carlos das Neves Warren Lewis Harold Ellis Peter Gordon Gavin ‘Stability Unit’ Lane