Booysen’s arrival at Naturena last month came as a surprise to many who may have thought he would become an obscure figure following Ajax Cape Town’s relegation to the First Division.
The 30-year-old’s career has been littered with loan spells since his arrival on the scene from Ajax’s youth structures in 2008, having also been involved in a couple of swap deals.
However, the Cape Town-born centre-back has had sizeable impacts at numerous clubs including Maritzburg United and SuperSport United – perhaps not standing out as an individual but notably in the teams’ showings.
At Maritzburg, Booysen showed his goal-scoring capacity as he contributed seven goals in 56 league appearances over two seasons under Ernst Middendorp and then Steve Komphela.
He then earned a move to Mamelodi Sundowns ahead of the 2014/15 season, and made some positive strides alongside Thabo Nthethe before falling out of favour, with the rise of Dutchman Alje Schut and Ramahlwe Mphahlele as Pitso Mosimane’s main central pairing.
The lanky defender’s return to SuperSport for a third spell in January 2016 saw him help Matsatsantsa to the Nedbank Cup crown under Stuart Baxter, who last year also handed him the Bafana Bafana captaincy during the CHAN qualifiers against Botswana.
Baxter was full of praise for Booysen, telling the media: “Mario Booysen has done very well as captain. He started a little sloppy, but he grew into a giant at the finish. He took responsibility, he is always talking to the players and always willing to help. For him, the team is always more important than the individual.”
He is indeed a team player, and his experience could come in handy in Amakhosi’s wretched defence, which has leaked seven goals in five league games under Giovanni Solinas this season.
Last season was certainly one to forget for Booysen, but he could perhaps be the leader Solinas’s backline needs at a time when last season’s form has abandoned Daniel Cardoso.
Whether he will make his debut in this weekend's visit to Cape Town City is anyone's guess, but Solinas may as well throw him in to see what exactly he can offer at a stage when their defence has been a major issue.