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Top 5 South African Strikers Of All Time

South Africa
Ace Football

Ace Football lists and profiles the five greatest South African strikers throughout football history.

Every team needs quality strikers. The output from these players, more often than not, can decide a season. Goals win matches, winning matches leads to points, points lead to championships.

To make it as a striker, there are a few prerequisites. Being a good shot is a no-brainer. But to excel in the role, a player must also have excellent positioning and the right instincts to go for goal. Having good pace, ball control, heading ability, and strength are a bonus.

So with these traits in mind, Ace Football lists the five greatest South African strikers of all time.

5. Siyabonga Nomvethe

Siyabonga Nomvethe
Credit: Twitter/@BafanaBafana

Incredibly, Siyabonga Nomvethe only retired from professional football in 2020 – aged 41. The striker had a glorious career. He featured in three European leagues, represented South Africa, and scored a record of 123 goals in the Premier Soccer League.

The former Moroka Swallows and Kaizer Chiefs star terrorized defenses on a weekly basis in his prime. He spent five years abroad starring for Udinese, Salernitana and Empoli in Italy‚ Djurgardens in Sweden, and Aalborg BK in Norway.

On the international scene, Nomvethe won 82 caps and scored 16 times for the South African national team. The attacker represented the Bafana Bafana in the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. He also scored the goal that sealed South Africa a first World Cup win in 2002 by beating Slovenia 1-0.

4. Sibusiso Zuma

‘Zuma the Puma’ is part of a rare breed of South African strikers who built their legacy abroad. His exploits in Denmark made him, in his very own words, ‘a king’. Even now, almost two decades later, Sibusiso Zuma is still held in high esteem by the FC Copenhagen faithful.

The striker scored 53 goals in 188 games, winning three Superliga titles and the Danish Cup. His most iconic moment was a bicycle-kick goal against Brondby in 2000/01. It not only won Copenhagen a first championship since 1992, but it was voted as the Danish league’s goal of the decade. He won a spot in the club’s Hall of Fame as a result, before Copenhagen honored him with a statue in 2013.

Zuma also represented the South African national team 67 times, scoring 13 goals. The Durban-born star featured in four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments and the 2002 World Cup. He retired in 2015 after spells with Arminia Bielefeld, Mamelodi Sundowns, Nordsjælland, Vasco da Gama, and SuperSport United.

3. Katlego Mphela

The ‘Killer’ was renowned for his finishing, pace, and strength. He was a prolific marksman, finishing as the PSL’s top-scorer in 2009/10 during a goal-laden career. He starred for SuperSport United‚ Mamelodi Sundowns, and Kaizer Chiefs after a brief spell in France.

There will always be a sense of what might’ve been for Katlego Mphela, though. The striker’s talent was indisputable. His record of 23 goals in 53 internationals is the third-best tally for South Africa. But not breaking Benni McCarthy’s record is something that he admits ‘haunts’ him, after ‘injuries and other things’ took their toll on him.

That said, Mphela had many memorable moments. Perhaps his best one was scoring a 30-yard free-kick against Spain in the third-place playoff of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, sending the tie into extra time. He also scored for South Africa in the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations.

2. Shaun Bartlett

Credit: Charlton Athletic

To score against Manchester United and Liverpool, star in the English Premier League, become a South Africa legend, and have Nelson Mandela attend your own wedding means you must be special.

Shaun Bartlett was just that. The South African striker famously scored a brace on his Premier League debut against United to seal a comeback 3-3 draw for Charlton Athletic in 2000. Many more incredible moments followed, including a left-footed volley against Leicester – which won him the Goal of the Season.

The star also enjoyed spells in the USA, Switzerland, and in his homeland. But for the South African fans, he is best remembered for his international exploits. His tally of 28 goals made the Bafana Bafana a force to be reckoned with. They helped the team win AFCON in 1996 on home soil and saw him become the first and only South African to score twice in a World Cup match in 1998.

1. Benni McCarthy

Benni McCarthy
Credit: Twitter/Benni McCarthy

Topping our list of the greatest South African strikers is the Bafana Bafana’s record goalscorer, Benni McCarthy.

The now-AmaZulu manager is the only South African to win a Champions League title in 2004. He played in four European leagues, starring for clubs like Ajax, Porto, and Blackburn Rovers.

In fact, in his debut Premier League season in 2007 for Blackburn, McCarthy finished as the second-highest goalscorer on 18 goals behind Chelsea’s Didier Drogba – but ahead of Manchester United legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

McCarthy was a goal machine wherever he went and, to this day, remains the only Bafana Bafana player to score in two World Cups. He won 14 trophies in his career, including league titles in the Netherlands and Portugal.