Johannesburg - Tributes poured in on Friday for the national football team's assistant coach, Thomas Madigage, who was killed in a car accident near Burgersfort, Limpopo.
Madigage, the assistant coach at SuperSport United for nearly a decade, was appointed new Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund's assistant in July.
"I have known Tommy for many years," Igesund said in a statement.
"He was not only my assistant, he was much more than that. He was a friend.
"Since working together, he had become part of my family.
"You can't get a better human being than what Tommy was.
"He was humble, loyal, committed, and sincere. He was so happy to be a part of the Bafana Bafana set-up and he had so much to contribute."
Igesund said South Africa's Africa Cup of Nations campaign next year would be dedicated to Madigage.
"My whole technical team, including assistant coach Serame Letsoaka and goalkeeper coach Alex Heredia, are deeply saddened by the loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt said he was "absolutely gutted" and devastated to hear of Madigage's death.
"We were more than work colleagues, we were great mates off the field," Hunt said.
"We spent hours and hours chatting about life; not even football, more about life."
Hunt said he had given Madigage his blessing when he was called up to assist Igesund with the national squad.
"He had a meeting with me the day before and he actually didn't want to go," Hunt said.
"I said to him that he has got to do it. I do think that I pushed him over the edge to go.
"I told him it was a [once in a] lifetime opportunity and I was so glad.
"If you look at what's happened, that he had the opportunity to have a taste of it.
"He can rest well now. It's just such a pity that he won't be there for the Africa Cup of Nations in his own country (next year)."
Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo said Madigage had played a leading role in his development as a player.
"I was fortunate enough to have known Tommy for over six years and am proud to admit what an influence he has had over my career throughout," Khumalo said.
"His influence on my life both on and off the field of play was immense, and I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today without Tommy and his contribution to my career and well-being."
Madigage and Khumalo formed part of the SuperSport United camp that won the Premiership title for three consecutive years, between 2008 and 2010.
"Having worked with him at both SuperSport and more recently with the Bafana Bafana squad, I know that he had a significant yet understated role with both teams," the defender said.
"But that was Tommy - never one to seek the glory.
"I will forever remember and learn from his humility, dignity, genuine care, and unwavering commitment towards making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than himself."
Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman Irvin Khoza said Madigage had earned respect throughout the football community.
"We are all saddened to hear the news of his passing. He was such a gentleman," Khoza said.
"Thomas was a man of few words, but he commanded so much respect among his peers and the players. It’s a sad day for all of us."
Khoza said there would be a moment of silence for Madigage at this weekend’s Telkom Knockout and the National First Division fixtures.
As a player, Madigage won four caps for Bafana Bafana, with his last match for the national side coming in 1997 against the Netherlands.
Earlier in his career, Madigage was the youngest player to represent a professional team in South Africa when he made his debut for Jomo Cosmos in 1987 at the age of 16.
He also played for SuperSport and enjoyed short stints abroad for Glasgow Rangers and Manchester City, before settling down for a longer stay at FC Zurich in Switzerland.