Which Former Bafana Players Made The Transitioned Into Top Coaches?

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  • Post published:March 25, 2024

Which former Bafana Bafana players have made the transition to top coaches? by Mogamad Allie.

It is common knowledge that the best players do not automatically morph into the best coaches.

There are many examples of top players who didn’t quite cut the mustard when moving into coaching roles – in South Africa one thinks of former stars such as Doctor Khumalo and Arthur Zwane, while in Europe, the likes of Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard have been unable to replicate their heroics as players in the coaching dugout.

In South Africa, however, many former Bafana Bafana players have had encouraging success as coaches, with several delivering silverware during their ongoing careers.

Pitso Mosimane, who only won four caps for Bafana, is without a doubt the most successful South African coach. The former Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns striker, who started out as assistant to Bruce Grobbelaar at SuperSport United in 2000, took over the head coaching role when the former Liverpool goalkeeper was fired in 2001.

During his six-year tenure with Matsatsantsa, Mosimane won the SAA Supa 8 in 2004 and Nedbank Cup the following year. After a stint with the national team, first as assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira and then as head coach after the 2010 World Cup, Mosimane came into his own as a coach by turning around the fortunes of what was then an ailing Mamelodi Sundowns side he joined midway through the 2012–13 season.

For the record, he helped Sundowns to their first ever African Champions League title in 2016, and delivered five league titles as well as two Nedbank Cups and Telkom Knockouts. He also won two Champions League titles with Egyptian giants Al Ahly as well as the first-division crown with Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia.

Neil Tovey, who captained Bafana Bafana to their historic first ever Africa Cup of Nations title in 1996, also lifted the league title as coach, albeit in a joint operation with Argentinian Miguel Gamondi when Sundowns claimed their fifth PSL title in 2007.

The former defender, who also had spells in charge of Hellenic, AmaZulu and Mpumalanga Black Aces, later served as Safa’s Technical Director between 2015 and 2020.

Tovey is not surprised that several of his former teammates have gone on to become successful coaches.

“They were mature thinkers as players. If things didn’t go our way on the pitch many of them put on their thinking caps and were able to figure out a way of turning things around without always relying on input from the coaches.”

Having had the rare experience of winning league titles in both capacities, Tovey says it’s a special feeling, though doing so as coach and player are totally different. “Of course both are special but one can’t compare the two. Being a coach is much more stressful because there’s lots of planning to be done – like when to rest players, how to run the training sessions and how to manage the players.

“As a player and captain there’s also lots of planning and responsibility, but the technical team has the bigger responsibility.”

Several other former Bafana players have had great success as coaches by delivering knockout trophies to their respective clubs.

Former goalkeeper Roger de Sá, who won a single Bafana cap against Zambia in 1993 and was a member of the 1996 Nations Cup-winning side, won the 2010 Nedbank Cup with Wits as well as the MTN8 in 2015 with Ajax Cape Town.

He also coached Orlando Pirates to the Champions League final in 2013 where they lost to Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

He later served as assistant to Carlos Queiroz, who was in charge of Iran at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The former Moroka Swallows and Bidvest Wits shot-stopper also served as Queiroz’s assistant with the Egypt national team that reached the final of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, where they lost on a penalty shoot- out to Senegal.

Eric Tinkler, a key member of the 1996 Nations Cup-winning team, won the Telkom Knockout with Cape Town City in 2016 and the MTN8 with SuperSport United the following season during his coaching career.

The former midfielder also reached the African Confederation Cup twice, losing to Étoile du Sahel in 2015 with Orlando Pirates and again in 2017, when SuperSport United were beaten by DR Congo giants TP Mazembe.

Benni McCarthy guided Cape Town City to the MTN8 title in 2018, beating Tinkler’s SuperSport on penalties in the final. McCarthy also helped AmaZulu, a team that had been relegated on four previous occasions, to a runner- up finish in 2021 and subsequently guided them to the group stages of the Champions League.

In August 2022, McCarthy, still Bafana’s record goal-scorer, joined Manchester United’s coaching staff as attack coach.

Former Manning Rangers and Orlando Pirates midfielder Clinton Larsen (right), who won two caps for Bafana Bafana in 1997, guided Bloemfontein Celtic to their first silverware in the PSL when they beat Mamelodi Sundowns 1–0 in the 2012 Telkom Knockout final in Durban. After the three-year stay with Phunya Sele Sele, Larsen coached at several clubs including Maritzburg United, Golden Arrows, Polokwane City and Chippa United. Last year he took charge of Motsepe Foundation outfit Magesi FC, who were handily placed in fifth position at the break for the Africa Cup of Nations, just three points behind leaders Orbit College.

Former defender Bradley Carnell (below), who started out as an assistant at Free State Stars and then went to Orlando Pirates, has overseen Major League Soccer rookies St Louis City, who last year in their inaugural season finished the regular season in top place.

Shaun Bartlett, who managed to successfully win promotion to the PSL with Golden Arrows in 2015 and with Cape Town Spurs in 2023, has also had a stint as head coach with second-tier side University of Pretoria in addition to serving as assistant coach at Kaizer Chiefs and TS Galaxy.

Masilo Modubi, who won two caps for Bafana between 2007 and 2015, has had a reasonably successful coaching career in Belgium with third-tier side KESK Leopoldsburg. After coming close to securing promotion at the end of last season, he left the club in November, ending a six-year spell as head coach.

Other former Bafana players to take up coaching positions include Steven Pienaar (assistant at Ajax Under-18s), Daine Klate (formerly with Chippa United and currently

with Motsepe Foundation side La Masia) and Quinton Fortune, who accepted a position as assistant to former Atlético Madrid teammate Veljko Paunović at Mexican side Guadalajara.

The pair previously worked together at English Championship side Reading and Fortune had earlier served as the assistant coach at Cardiff City.


Some of the most successful local coaches of recent times did not play for Bafana Bafana. Gavin Hunt and Gordon Igesund each have four league titles to their name but did not play international football.

Igesund likely would have but for South Africa’s sports isolation during apartheid. Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena have worked wonders over at Mamelodi Sundowns, but barely had any playing career to speak of.

Photo by Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix