Retirement in any sport is an difficult decision for the player and cricket fans all over the globe. The South African cricket team has been plagued by early retirements for quite a long time now. The present South African line-up is a good example of this. They have a handful of less experienced youngsters even as they head towards the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021. Each player has different reasons to retire, be it personal problems, injuries or to provide opportunities for the young generations. But from the viewpoint of a cricket enthusiast, some of these players could have played a little longer. Early retirement doesn’t just mean at a young age but retiring even when they are in the peak performance period. So, below given are the top ten South African cricketers who retired early from international cricket.

1. Ab De Villiers

The most shocking news cricket fans all over the globe heard in recent years would be when Mr.360 announced his retirement in 2018, just a year before the World Cup. But what leaves people most astonished is how he performs even now in the IPL matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore. AB De Villiers can be considered one of the greatest cricketers of all time, and international cricket has missed him since then. He owns 22 Centuries in tests and 26 hundreds in ODIs. The Superman also holds the unbreakable records of the fastest fifty (16 balls), ODI hundred (31 balls) and fastest ODI 150 (64 balls) of all time in cricket. His power-hitting skills at the most crucial moment have driven fans crazy over him.

2. Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith was the youngest South African captain and most excellent captain of all time in cricket history. He began his captaincy at 22 and is the only player to captain a team in more than 100 Tests. He played a total of 117 Tests and 197 ODIs for his country. Smith, who failed to score runs in a couple of series, announced his retirement at an early age of 33 in 2014.

3. Mark Boucher

The cricketer with 999 international cricket dismissals! That sounds like some wicket-keeping magic by the legend Mark Boucher, who had to retire early due to an eye injury. He was an extraordinary wicket-keeper batsman. He made his debut in 1997 and played more than 450 matches for South Africa across different formats. It was in 2012 that he got hit by a ball while keeping wickets. The missing helmet cost him his career and he had to undergo surgery. But he failed to recover and had to announce a sudden retirement. He could have played for a couple of years more, but the injury had sadly cut short his career.

4. Jonty Rhodes

A google search on the best fielder in cricket history will provide just one name – Jonty Rhodes. He is one of the South African cricketers who retired early from the game due to prolonged injuries. He played more than 50 tests in which he scored three centuries and 17 half-centuries. Rhodes announced his retirement from Test cricket at 32 to give more focus on the ODI format. The 2003 World Cup was quite a tragic one for him when he got injured in a game while fielding. That was the last time he wore the South African jersey. Rhodes currently serves as the fielding coach of Punjab Kings in IPL.

5. Hansie Cronje 

Hansie Cronje was the former captain of the South African Cricket team during the 1990s. Despite being banned from cricket for life due to a match-fixing scandal, he had been voted the 11th greatest South African in 2004. He was recorded having conversations with bookmaker Sanjay Chawla. After rounds of cross-examination, he was held guilty and given a lifetime ban. Thus his career tragically ended in 2002. Two years later, a plane crash resulted in his death, which some people believe was pre-planned. Despite all of this, he was one of the gems who were lost a bit early for team South Africa.

6. Andre Nel

Andre Nel, former South African, cricketer played in all formats as a fast bowler. He played nearly 80 ODIs and 40 Tests since his Test and ODI debuts in 2001 against Zimbabwe and West Indies. His genuine pace caused some real for most batters. He announced retirement in 2009 at the age of 32. As a fast bowler who performed consistently, he could have worn the South African jersey for more years.

7. Graeme Pollock 

The name Graeme Pollock prevails in the minds of South African fans from long before. He can be termed as one of the finest left-handed batsmen ever. He belonged to a cricketing family and received various awards within a short span. A sporting boycott that prevailed in South Africa during the Apartheid Era cost him his career.

8. Lance Klusener

Nicknamed Zulu, Klusener was a hard hitter. He was the perfect finisher batter and could bowl at a nagging medium pace. He was the 1999 ICC Cricket World Cup hero when he uplifted his team to reach the semi-finals. With his mind-blowing performance in the tournament, he was awarded  Man of the Tournament for his 17 wickets and 250 runs from eight matches. He was awarded the Wisden Cricketer of the year in 2000. He had to go through poor form soon after the world cup heroics and got dropped. He made a comeback some years later during the 2003-04 period. But his return did not last too long. Klusener had to bid goodbye to international cricket after linking up with his African mates under Kepler Wessels at Northamptonshire.

9. Daryll Cullinan 

Daryll Cullinan was the backbone of South Africa’s batting during the first half of the 1990s. He was equally adept against pace or spin, along with the priceless gift of timing. By the end of the 2001 season, Cullinan wished to opt-out of one-day cricket, but the South African board pressured him to sign a new two-year contract. However, he announced retirement from all forms of international cricket in 2002 under allegations of a dispute with the board. Later, they revealed that the board was unable to meet specific demands made by Cullinan.

10. Rilee Rossouw

The Former South African Cricketer Rilee Russouw’s International cricket career had to end in 3 years when he retired in 2017. Twenty-eight years was too soon to see him retire. He played for only a short span of time between 2014 and 2017. He would have been a potential asset to the South African team if he had chosen to play longer. He played 36 ODI’s and 15 T20s, scoring 1239 and 327 runs in the respective formats. He had 3 ODI centuries to his name. Rossouw signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire County Cricket Club in 2017, which made him ineligible to represent South Africa anymore. He represented the title-winning Multan Sultans in PSL 2021 and played match-winning knocks.