Hosts Egypt were on the end of an upset inside the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday, as a late Thembinkosi Lorch winner sealed their exit from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Pharaohs came into the game boasting a perfect record of nine points out of nine in the Group Stage and no goals conceded, and were heavily favoured over Bafana, who scraped through as one of four third-placed teams.
It was, however, the South Africans who began on the front foot, and largely dominated proceedings.
Lorch, making his first start of the competition, was a constant threat in the final third: he flashed a shot wide from the edge of the area early on, before then having a far-post volley blocked.
The threat of an Egyptian counter remained prominent, however. Star man Mohamed Salah had shaken off the flu in the week to start, and played in Mahmoud Trezeguet after a strong run. The Kasimpasa man, however, produced a weak finish which was easily gathered by Bafana keeper Ronwen Williams.
South Africa, however, continued to dominate the play. Percy Tau drew a brilliant save from Mohamed El-Shenawy with a well-struck free-kick from some distance, before Kamohelo Mokotjo pulled an effort from outside the area just wide of the upright.
There was a reaction from the hosts after the break though, and the game’s best chance fell once again to Trezeguet via a Salah through ball. Once more, the forward was guilty of a poor finish, shooting straight into the midriff of Williams with the entire goal to aim at.
Bafana once again began to exert an influence on proceedings, and Lorch ran through on the outside to draw a save from El-Shenawy.
The sting in the tail would come with four minutes left to play, as South Africa broke and found Lebo Mothiba in space. The striker’s ball across was precise to find PSL Player of the Year Lorch, and the winger made no mistake, silencing Cairo with a composed finish into the bottom corner.
South Africa will next take on Nigeria in the Quarter-final on Wednesday.