Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana number one goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and midfield kingpin Kagisho Dikgacoi who plays for Crystal Palace in England, both celebrated their 50th caps for South Africa in last night's (Saturday, 12 January 2012) international friendly match against Algeria at Orlando Stadium.
Both players join a selected list to have reached such a milestone such as Aaron Mokoena, Neil Tovey, Shaun Bartlett, Lucas Radebe and Benni McCarthy. Former captain Aaron Mokoena, with a record 107 appearances, remains the most capped player.
In the current Bafana Bafana squad, the highest capped player is Siphiwe Tshabalala (73), followed by Siboniso Gaxa on 54, while Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker are just one cap shy of 50.
Khune made his debut for South Africa on 11 March 2008 in an international friendly match against Zimbabwe in Germiston, Johannesburg and has conceded 38 goals since then.
Dikgacoi first played for Bafana Bafana in 2007 in a Cosafa Castle Cup match against Malawi, and has scored two goals for the national team.
We sat down with Khune to get his thoughts on the achievement.
Question: How does it feel reaching this remarkable milestone?
Answer: First all, I want to thank God for helping me reach this far. It is with his blessings and grace that I have come this far. It's a great feeling knowing I have served my country for close to six years; it's an indescribable feeling as I never thought I would reach this far. As a youngster, my dream was to play for my country. It was not an easy ride because this country is blessed with great goalkeepers but I have somehow managed to achieve my goal. This really means a lot to me and I would like to thank all those who have contributed to my success.
Q: How does your experience help in the squad?
A: I joined the national team as a youngster and was welcome by very experienced players who showed me the way, so today it is my turn to do the same to those who are coming through. One thing I have to keep in mind is that I am not bigger than the game; I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground and remain humble. The experience though also comes with responsibilities such as reminding youngsters that players are not indispensable but come and go.
Q: How did it feel like captaining South Africa for the first time?
A: It's quite an honour to be captain, be it for club or country and leading the team against Malawi in Durban was very emotional for me. It was a shock the way it happened, in that the kit manager handed me the armband before the coach told me and said congratulations.
Q: Your highlights in the national team?
A: Every time I represent my country is a highlight in itself. But quite a few matches stand out. Featuring in the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup are events that won't be erased from my great memories. My second cap against Paraguay (26 March 2008 in Atteridgeville) will always be top of the list as we played a very good side and we did well, winning 3-0. Playing against Brazil in Brazil recently (7 September 2012) also comes to mind despite losing the match 1-0. The team played magnificently and I believe I put up a great performance as an individual. The other would be saving a penalty from a world class striker like David Villa of Spain.
Q: The sending off in the World Cup?
A: It was a bitter pill to swallow being sent off at such a big stage, but I have since recovered and moved on because it's part of the game. I have learnt a lot from that incident and I am now stronger.
Q: What are your fears as a key player in the national team?
A: As a player when you get injured you worry a lot because there are quality players in the squad who are lining to take your position. But I have always believed in hard work, and it has taken me to where I am today.
Q: What are your thoughts on AFCON 2013?
A: We stand a very good chance in the tournament. We must just start converting the many chances that we create. I believe we have great players that can deliver and there is no reason why we shouldn't do well. This is a new generation of players who are hungry for success and we have a strong belief in us that we can go all the way.
Q: Your message to the supporters.
A: I would like thank them for their continued support and urge them to continue to be behind the national team - unity is strength! With their support we can do very well and go far. They just need to exercise some patience as results are mixed at the moment, but we will get back to our winning ways and return to be the best on the continent and in the world.