As the Palace squad embark on a 9,000 mile flight to South Africa for this week’s Cape Town Cup, a couple of men who have represented the Eagles in different eras are very well acquainted with that particular journey.
Just two South Africans have worn the red and blue stripes during our history but both played a key role in the Eagles’ success, having helped the club win promotion to the top flight via the play-offs on separate occasions. Here we profile the two men in question.
Gavin Nebbeling – 1981-89 – 173 appearances, 8 goals
The Johannesburg-born central defender was handed a chance to play professional football in England by the Eagles in 1981, having arrived on these shores after representing Pretoria-based club Arcadia Shepherds, who currently ply their trade in the second tier of South African football.
Despite having come from relative obscurity Nebbeling impressed and after signing permanently was handed his debut by Steve Kember on the final day of the 1981/82 season against Newcastle United. Following Alan Mullary’s appointment he became a regular towards the end of the next campaign but would later lose his spot again and became a squad player.
However after a loan spell with Northampton Town in 1985/86 he returned to SE25 and Steve Coppell handed him another run in the side, and in 1987/88 he would play 44 times in all competitions. Despite not holding his spot down in the next season, Nebbling would play a key role in ensuring the club finished in the play-offs by deputising for Gary O’Reilly in the final three games of the season which yielded a precious seven points.
After missing the four play-off games that booked Palace’s place back in Division One, he moved onto Fulham in the summer of 1990 where he would spend the next four years, and later represented Hereford United, Preston North End and Kingstonian before retiring in 1998.
Kagisho Dikgacoi – 2011-2014 – 114 games, 8 goals
A hard-working, popular midfielder, Dikgacoi made the opposite move to Nebbeling by arriving at the Eagles from Fulham initially on loan in February 2011 before making the switch from west to south London permanent.
Dikgacoi had arrived in London having represented Bloemfontein Young Tigers and Golden Arrows in his homeland and winning his first international cap for Bafana Bafana in 2007. After a successful trial with the Craven Cottage outfit, he was handed a deal in in August 2009.
After representing the Rainbow Nation in their home World Cup in 2010, he found appearances restricted at Fulham and was allowed to join Dougie Freedman’s Palace on loan the following season. After impressing in his 13 appearances £600,000 sealed his signature.
Known as KG in SE25, Dikgacoi remained a regular in the side and forged a strong partnership with Mile Jedinak in the heart of the Eagles midfield. The 2012/13 season saw the Eagles reach the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley but KG was forced off just 18 minutes into the win against Watford through injury, but went on to impress in the Premier League.
Despite featuring 26 times for the Eagles in the top-flight, Dikgacoi turned down a new contract and moved to Cardiff City on a free transfer, but injuries only saw him turn out three times for his new side last season.