It may be hard to imagine now but once upon a time, South Africa produced the continents finest strikers who plied their trade abroad and locally. Here are the top 10 strikers in South African history (in order):
10. Daniel Mudau
South African Caps: 16
South African Goals: 3
Career goals for club and country: 165
Strengths: Finishing and positioning
Daniel ‘Mambush’ Mudau spent 11 of his 12-year career at Mamelodi Sundowns where he is the all-time top goal scorer for the club.
Mambush didn’t have much of an international career because, in his prime, South Africa was stacked with striking talent. His 16 international caps for Bafana might have been a little fewer than what he would have wished for, but Mudau was part of Clive Barker’s Africa Cup of Nations winning squad in 1996 on home soil.
Mudau was a ‘Fox in the Box’ type forward. A deadly striker, He scored most of his goals in the 18-area, not particularly skilful but scored a lot of goals. 🦊
9. Pollen Ndlanya
South African Caps: 29
South African Goals: 5
Career goals for club and country: 98
Strengths: Strength and shot power
After signing for Kaizer Chiefs at a young age, Pollen Ndlanya only managed to play four games for Amakhosi before he sent packing to Manning Rangers.
At The Mighty Maulers, ‘Trompies’ proved his worth scoring 24 goals in 66 games and had Chiefs regretting letting him go.
They ask for love back, he returned to Chiefs, and his second spell proved to be more fruitful than his first.
Ndlanya represented Bafana Bafana between the years of 1997-2001. He would get scattered game time. He was favoured by some coaches and not even considered by others.
Pollen Ndlanya was a big strong forward who was nimble for his size. Technically gifted and lethal in front of goal.
He became one of only two South African strikers at the time to achieve scoring 100 goals in the PSL after Mudau during the 1998/1999 campaign. 💯
8. Tokelo Anthony Rantie
South African Caps: 40
South African Goals: 12
Career goals for club and country: 47
Strengths: Pace and finishing
Even though Tokelo Rantie has had a troubled few years in recent times. He makes this list because of his potential. We can’t understate his quality as a striker.
At 22, after spending most of his career on loan overseas from the Stars of Africa Academy, he got a permanent move to Swedish side Malmö FF. Only after a year, he transferred to England’s Bournemouth for a reported club-record fee at the time of £2.5 million. After playing the majority of the games in his first season, due to injuries and form, he started getting less playing time.
Rantie scored crucial goals for South Africa in big qualification games. Like the brace in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification 2-2 draw against Nigeria in 2014. Or, the 1-0 win against the Super Eagles in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification in 2017.
Rantie is still only 29. He hasn’t played much football in three years because of the aforementioned personal problem. Should he get his head right, Tokelo has a lot more to offer South African football. 🇿🇦
7. Sibusiso Zuma
South African Caps: 66
South African Goals: 13
Career goals for club and country: 146
Strengths: Pace, skill and acrobatics
Zuma started his career at African Wanderers at the age of 20 but really made a name for himself at Orlando Pirates where he, as a winger, scored 37 goals in only 70 appearances.
His good form had caught the attention of European sides. In June 2000, Zuma joined Danish club F.C. Copenhagen, where he shined as a player.
Zuma began his career on flanks terrorising defenders with his blistering pace and skill. In Europe, he was used more as a striker because of his speed and finishing ability.
In 2001, Zuma was tied for 29th place for the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year award. Quite an achievement for a South African player.
Outside FC Copenhagen’s Telia Parken Stadium, there is an inscribed statue of Zuma.
In 2013, Zuma’s bicycle kick was voted the greatest moment in the history of F.C. Copenhagen.
I once came across Sibusiso Zuma once, at a bank. As much of a football fan as I am, I didn’t feel the urge to ask for an autograph or more appropriately a picture for Instagram. This is not because I don’t like the guy or anything. It’s because he isn’t as revered here as he is in Copenhagen.
Zuma had a fairly good international career. He has represented South Africa 66 times, he represented us at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and, he was the captain of South African National team at the 2006 African Cup of Nations tournament. But, his emergence came at a time where the national team’s form was declining and we didn’t have access to the Danish league to share in his success over there. 🇩🇰
6. Katlego Mphela
South African Caps: 53
South African Goals: 23
Career goals for club and country: 101
Strengths: Strength, finishing and shot power
As a 19-year-old teenager Katlego Mphela moved from Jomo Cosmos to RC Strasbourg in Ligue 1 (France). He didn’t get much game time in his two seasons there, in which one he spent on loan at French Ligue 2 side Stade Reims.
He came back to South Africa played a couple of season at Supersport United but came into prominence with his move to Mamelodi Sundowns. Killa scored 48 goals from 118 appearances and won his fair share of medals at Chloorkop.
One of, and maybe perhaps, Mphela’s greatest Bafana Bafana moment came in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup third-place playoff against Spain. Coming in as a substitute Mphela produced arguably the goal of the tournament.A 30-yard pile driver of a free-kick which turned out to be the last action of the 90 mins. It sent the game into extra time. South African eventually lost the tie but he then became a fixture in the national team. He scored an impressive 23 goals from only 53 games.
Mphela was a strong striker who had a fierce shot hence his nickname ‘Killa’. He made intelligent runs and his reading of the game was excellent.
His form fell off a cliff once he joined Kaizer Chiefs but he was getting on in age and had some off the pitch issues too. He may have had a better career if he made better decisions but there is no doubting his quality. 💀