Listed: The most successful Bafana Bafana captain

Listed: The most successful Bafana Bafana captain
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Being named as South Africa's Bafana Bafana captain is a huge responsibility and a big honour for the players who have covered this role in the senior national football team in the past and present.

Captaincy is given to players with desirable qualities who vary in their approach and style, leading by example and commanding respect.

Some captains are very vocal and imposing. These sets of players make their presence and feelings known to their squad very quickly. While others will adopt a more subtle and quieter approach in making their decisions and feelings known.

Since 1992 when South Africa played their first official international football match till date, the national football team has had many legendary players and captains.

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South Africa's Bafana Bafana during the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Credit: Icon Sport

These Bafana Bafana captains all have differing styles due to their personality; but regardless of their manner, approach, and quality, one thing stands out–they've all had a massive impact on South African football–which has become a benchmark and a source of admiration for the younger generation.

Neil Tovey: First and most successful Bafana Bafana captain

First Bafana Bafana captain
Credit: Icon Sport

Neil Tovey has an eternal place in South African football because he was Bafana Bafana's first ever captain.

Regarded as the best Bafana Bafana captain in history, he remains the only captain to have ever lifted the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy for South Africa in 1996.

The team Tovey captained in 1996 are regarded as ‘Nation Builders' who prevailed over the continent just four years after the country's first ever international football match.

The leadership qualities of Tovey formed the bedrock of which the 1996 AFCON success was built upon. He was a source of inspiration for the players around him and together they overcame obstacles and the dreaded African teams at the time to reign supreme on the continental stage.

Till date, Tovey is the most successful Bafana Bafana captain for lifting the 1996 AFCON trophy. He featured for Kaizer Chiefs and AmaZulu in a playing career that lasted for two decades.

Other past legendary Bafana Bafana captains

Lucas Radebe

Radebe was part of the 1996 AFCON winning team known as the Nation Builders. He also represented Bafana Bafana at the 1998 and 2002 World Cup.

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Credit: Icon Sport

He has an endearing reputation as one of Bafana's best captains, a consistent and elegant defender who played for Kaizer Chiefs before moving abroad.

Radebe captained Bafana Bafana during the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup where South Africa failed to reach the knockout stage on both occasions.

The Legendary Nelson Mandela named him as his “hero”, such was the honour bestowed on Radebe by the Rainbow Nation’s late founding father during his days as a Leeds United player.

According to reports, he could have achieved greater things had the Whites not turned down Manchester United’s bid for the player.

He may never have won a major title but Radebe was named as Leeds’ Player of the Year in 1998 and remains, to this day, a Leeds great.

Aaron Mokoena

Former Bafana Bafana captain, Aaron Mokoena
Credit: Icon Sport

Known as “Mbazo” or “The Axe” because of his tough tackling skills, Aaron Mokoena became the youngest player in history (at the time) to present South Africa in 1999 at 18 years of age.

Mokoena played for South Africa in the 2000 Summer Olympics where they finished third in Group D. Mokoena also featured for Bafana Bafana in the 2002 and 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.

The former Bidvest Wits star became Bafana Bafana captain when he replaced Radebe in this role. He captained South Africa side in the 2008 AFCON in Ghana, and also retained his captaincy in the 2009 Confederation Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup at home soil.

At his retirement, he has played 107 games for Bafana Bafana and scored 1 goal.

Bongani Khumalo

Former Bafana Bafana captain
Credit: Icon Sport

Bongani Khumalo was part of the Bafana Bafana squad who took part in the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Khumalo was Bafana Bafana captain in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations which was hosted by South Africa.

He played for Bidvest Wits for four years before his retirement in 2018. He made 42 appearances for Bafana Bafana and scored 1 goal.

Steve Komphela

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Credit: Icon Sport

Steve Komphela was one of the founding members of South Africa's national football team in 1992. That year, he made his debut against Cameroon in a match Bafana Bafana defeated the Indomitable Lions 1-0.

Komphela captained Bafana Bafana in South Africa's second World Cup qualifier and he played every minute of the country's first 22 international games. He served as captain of the team in 18 matches, his last being the 2-2 draw against Zambia in November, 1995.

The former Kaizer Chiefs player was unfortunately not selected in the 1996 AFCON winning squad, but remains one of Bafana Bafana greats with 24 caps to his name.

Steven Pienaar

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Credit: Icon Sport

Former captain of South Africa, Steven Pienaar played primarily as a winger but can also play as an attacking midfielder.

Pienaar made his international debut in 2002 against Turkey. He participated in the 2002 and 2010 FIFA World Cup for Bafana Bafana.

He was one of South Africa's most impactful players in the Premier League but after his international retirement in 2012, his contribution has been seen as a big disappointment because he never truly made the impact expected of him for Bafana Bafana.

Pienaar scored 3 goals over the course of his 61 caps for South Africa. He did not win a trophy as Bafana Bafana captain.

Question of the day!

Will current Bafana Bafana captain Ronwen Williams become the second captain of South Africa's senior national football team to lift the AFCON trophy?

South Africa will play Nigeria in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations as they aim to win their second AFCON trophy in history.

This article was most recently revised and updated 2 weeks ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.