Banyana Banyana secured a place in the final of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) African Women's Championship with a thrilling 1-0 win over Africa's top-ranked team, Nigeria, in a semi-final played at the Bata Stadium in Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday.
It was a first victory for Banyana over Nigeria, who were the defending champions, since the South African national women's team was founded in 1993.
'Amazing sense of pride'
After the game, South African coach Joseph Mkhonza said: "Seeing Banyana Banyana beat Nigeria for the first time in our team's history has left us with an amazing sense of prize and confidence ahead of Sunday's final against the hosts Equatorial Guinea. All of our players need to be commended for their commitment and discipline shown.
"We had to pick ourselves up after the opening match defeat against Equatorial Guinea and have applied ourselves to beat Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and now Nigeria," Mkhonza said.
"We have some homework to do before Sunday's final, knowing we will play in front of a large red-clad crowd in what is certain to be a packed Malabo stadium, but we will be ready for the challenge."
Central defender Janine van Wyk scored the all-important goal in the 23rd minute, after the Nigerians failed to clear their lines from a corner kick. She gathered the ball 25 metres out from the goal and let fly with a left-footed shot, which dipped and hit the underside of the crossbar, leaving Nigerian goalkeeper and captain Precious Dede with no chance of stopping it.
The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana will face Equatorial Guinea in the final in Malabo on Sunday, 11 November, after the hosts defeated Cameroon 2-0 in the first semi-final played earlier in the day.
Nigeria pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half, but they found Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Thoko Mndaweni in fine form between the posts at the South African end of the field.
Fine defensive work
The Nigerian attacks were often neutralised by some fine defensive work, with Amanda Sister combining superbly with Van Wyk in the heart of the Banyana Banyana rearguard. They were well aided by fullbacks Gabisile Hlumbane and Nothando Vilakazi.
With the speed of striker Jermaine Seoposenwe causing a major problem for the Nigerian defenders, and with the experienced Portia Modise dominating the midfield tussles along with captain Amanda Dlamini and the young, tough-tackling Refiloe Jane, the South Africans saved their best performance at the tournament for the clash with the Nigerians.
Van Wyk's goal was her second against the Nigerians in the African Women's Championship. Two years ago, in Ekurhuleni, she netted a superb free kick against the Super Falcons in the African Women’s Championship.
"I have been in the Banyana Banyana side since 2004 and we have tried for so long to beat the Nigerians, but luck has never been on our side. But now we have proved that we can compete and beat the best on the continent," said Van Wyk, whose strike was her ninth in a Banyana Banyana jersey.