Top 15 South Africa Players Who Surprisingly Didn't Have Outstanding International Careers

Top 14 South Africa Players Who Surprisingly Didn’t Have Outstanding International Careers

There have been players who’ve had very good careers domestically but, failed to impress or even get the opportunity to dazzle for Bafana Bafana at international level. Here are the top 14 players who had below par international careers:

Notable mentions 

Emmanuel ‘Scara’ Ngobese

14. Tefu Mashamaite

Caps for Bafana Bafana:

Reason for the below-average international career: His overall ability didn’t suit the international game. 

Tefu Mashamaite as a central defender came into prominence in Stuart Baxter’s Kaizer Chiefs.  Those sides prided themselves on defending well and attacking their opponents in broken play on the transition.

He helped Chiefs win a league and cup double in 2012/13 and captained them to another league double in 2014/15. 

Mashamaite was very intelligent at shutting down passing lanes and clearing aerial balls that came into the 18-area. 

In 2015 he won Footballer of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Absa Premiership Defender of the Season. 

His lack of game time at the international level may have been due to his lack of overall athleticism. Tefu was somewhat slow and wasn’t the strongest of defenders. 

13. Michael Manzini

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 3

Reason for the below-average international career: His prime came at a time when there was a glut of better players in his position. 

Michael Manzini was a defender who started and finished his career at Mamelodi Sundowns between 1995-2009.

He was a reliable and efficient captain who made well over 250 appearances for the Masandawana.

Manzini was a mainstay in Gordan Igesunds 2006–2008 Sundowns sides. Those teams could be described as one of the best in the PSL era. 

Unfortunately, not many national coaches thought he had what it takes at the international level.  

12. Lebohang “Cheeseboy” Mokoena

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 8

Reason for the below-average international career: Decisions on and off the pitch

A pimple-faced 17-year-old Cheeseboy burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. He graduated from the Orlando Pirates academy to their first team coached Kostadine Papic.

Mokoena is one of a few young players in South Africa who has the record of having represented his nation at all levels. Starting at Under-17, U-20, U-23, and then the senior team. 

He was lighting quick, with awe-inspiring skills (embarrassing to some), and a good finisher in front of goal. 

In the 2004/05 Mokoena won Orlando Pirates’ Most Improved Player of the Year award. A few months later he made his senior national team debut. 

After being disillusioned by failed moves overseas Mokoena’s form dropped. A move to Sundowns in 2009 saw his game time diminish. His career took a nosedive after that.

Mokoena was supposed to be South Africa’s next Steven Pienaar or Benni McCarthy. He let situations he could not control dictate the things he could.


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11. Josta Dladla

Caps for Bafana Bafana:

Reason for the below-average international career: Bafana coaches found no use for his skillset.

By the age of 23, Josta Dlala was already plying his trade overseas in Denmark after his excellent performances for Bidvest Wits in the PSL. 

Dladla returned to South Africa to Mamelodi Sundowns in which he still played at a high level. 

In his younger days, Dladla was quick and technically sound. Stuart Baxter, who coached Dladla during his time at Kaizer Chiefs, said the following in a Citypress interview comparing Dladla to Ryan Giggs. “We wouldn’t extend his contract if we didn’t think he would become the Ryan Giggs of Chiefs, Josta can play wide, central, off the strikers and Josta shows that he has Giggs’ resilience. He can be a substitute, start the match and still be a team player.

Baxter’s description of Dladla’s play may have been the reason why he didn’t find great success at Bafana Bafana. He was a jack of trades but a master of none. 

10. Arthur “10111” Zwane

Caps for Bafana Bafana:

Reason for the below-average international career: Game wasn’t suited for international football.

Authur Zwane became a name that most football lovers recognised during his time at Thembisa Classic. His move Kaizer Chiefs made him a star. 

10111 was tall but slightly built. He was quicker than the speed of sound, skilful, with the ability to cross the ball. 

During his prime between 2000-2004, Bafana Bafana coaches didn’t put emphasis on wing play. Getting to the byline and playing balls into the area. Unfortunately, that type of football was Zwane’s strength.  

9. Godfrey “Godfather” Sapula

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 24

Reason for the below-average international career: His prime was at a time overseas players got more game time. 

Godfrey Sapula has had a long storied career. One that started at Jomo Cosmos in 1993. He then spent a short time overseas in Turkey then moved to Orlando Pirates where he really shone as a player.

Sundowns came and snapped him up at the ripe old age of 29. It seemed that his best year may have been behind him. But, in his 6 seasons at Downs, he played a key role in them winning five trophies as the linchpin of their midfield.

Sapula was a classy, composed, technical midfielder. He had an eye for a pass and could shoot for goal when the opportunity presented itself. 

By the time he got his second wind as a player, he was past the age of 30 and South Africa at that time prioritised younger midfielders or experienced ones from overseas.

8. Thabo “Tsiki Tsiki” Mooki

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 3

Reason for the below-average international career: Game wasn’t suited for international football.

Tsiki Tsiki is one of the longest-serving Chiefs players. He enjoyed 15 years at Amakhosi where he won countless trophies as a first-team player. 

Mooki was a skilful, technical midfielder, with a good range of passing. 

Mooki played a South African brand of football. A style of football that after 1996, Bafana Bafana coaches didn’t vibe with. He was like John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu Light. He didn’t have the pace, energy or the goals but all of the skill. 


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7. Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 10

Reason for the below-average international career: His prime came at a time when there was a glut of better players in his position. 

Jerry Sikhosana spent most of his career at Orlando Pirates where he tormented opposing defences – especially Kaizer Chiefs. He was part of the 1995 African Champions League winning team.

He was a goal poacher with a fierce strike. 

In the mid-’90s South Africa had an embarrassing amount of talent in the striking department. Shaun Bartlet, young Benni McCarthy, Mark Williams, Phil Masinga, Daniel Mudau. He wasn’t going to displace any of those players from the team. 

6. Thabang “Chillies” Lebese

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 1

Reason for the below-average international career: Game wasn’t suited for international football.

Lebese was a goalscoring central midfielder with bags of pace and had a brilliant football brain. 

Lebese seemed to be quite a character off the field. He didn’t like rules very much and clashed with his coaches. However the reason why he didn’t make the cut for Bafana Bafana football-wise was because there was quite simply better players in his position at the time. 

5. Daine Klate

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 13

Reason for the below-average international career: Game wasn’t suited for international football.

Daine Klate graduated from the Supersport United academy to Gavin Hunt’s first team at 19. He was a key member in Hunt’s three-time league winning teams. If you thought that was a fluke he moved to Orlando Pirates and won 6 more trophies in two years.

Klate is the leagues most winningest player with 14 gold medals with three different teams to his name.

Klate is a winger with a wand of a left football. He could take corners, score from freekicks, and curl in pinpoint crosses.  

There was a time Bafana needed a left-footed attacking player. But, Klate didn’t seem to fit. His slight frame and lack of raw pace hindered him from excelling at the next level. 


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4. Brian “Spiderman” Baloyi

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 24

Reason for the below-average international career: Andre Arendse

Brain Baloyi made his debut for Chiefs in 1993. Spiderman for a stretch was the best goalkeeper in the country but he couldn’t get a kick for Bafana Bafana.

He was a supreme shot-stopper, acrobatic, and his distribution was top notch. 

Andre Arendse was prefered by Bafana Bafana coaches at the time mainly due to his experience overseas. 

3. Daniel “Mambush” Mudau

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 16

Reason for the below-average international career: His prime came at a time when there was a glut of better players in his position.

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.

2. Steve “Kideo”/”Chippa” Lekoelea

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 10

Reason for the below-average international career: Off and on the field issues

Steve Lekoelea was 15 years, 257 days old when he debuted for Moroka Swallows in 1994, and became the league’s youngest scorer, aged 16 years, 7 days, when he scored against Umtata Bush Bucks on 12 February 1995. Lekoelea first appeared for the senior South Africa national football team as a teen. He was signed by Orlando Pirates and became a superstar. 

Kideo was a tricky attacking midfielder with nifty footwork, he was a freekick specialist, and was intelligent at a young age. 

Chippa started losing his way when he began demanding money from Orlando Pirates (which was notoriously stingy) and his off the field antics. His acts of petulance and lack of discipline landed him on the bench. His star faded when he left Pirates after 10 years at the club. 

Lekoelea was a gifted player but his insistence to showboat may have put a few national team coaches off. It seemed as though growing up a prodigy did his efforts (or lack their of) to improve more harm than good in the end. He didn’t seem to take football seriously. 

1. Jabu “Shuffle”/”Ngwana wa Tshwenya” (Pule) Mahlangu

Caps for Bafana Bafana: 20

Reason for the below-average international career: Off the field issues 

A name that every defender dreaded to hear in the early 2000s was Jabu Pule. He is simply the best South African talent not to impress in a Bafana Bafana jersey. 

Mahlangu won many trophies for his Kaizer Chiefs team and individual awards.

Shuffle was quick, skilful, he was eager to take on defenders, and could score goals. 

Jabu Pule’s talent was wasted by his infatuation with alcohol. He often had numerous off-field and disciplinary issues in the past. Most of his troublesome behaviour was attributed to drinking alcohol. 

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