Banyana Banyana failed to clear the final hurdle, falling to Equatorial Guinea in the final of the Confederation of African Football's (Caf) African Women's Championship in Malabo on Sunday.
It took the hosts until two minutes before halftime to break the goalless deadlock, but they dominated the second half, netting a further three times, to run out convincing 4-0 winners.
The Sasol-sponsored South African women travelled to the Malabo New Stadium in high spirits after defeating Africa's top ranked side Nigeria 1-0 in Bata on the mainland on Wednesday, but came unstuck against a determined home side.
'A major disappointment'
Speaking after the match, Banyana Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza said: "Falling at the final hurdle is a major disappointment to all involved with Banyana Banyana, particularly after the fine effort put in to record our national team's first ever win over Nigeria in the semi-finals last week."
He added: "Safa (the South African Football Association) and Sasol need to be thanked for their continued support of women's football in SA since we have proved that with the current crop of players, as well as a vast pool of talent identified via the Sasol League Road Shows, Banyana Banyana should be able to qualify for international tournaments, such as the World Cup and the Olympics, in the future."
Equatorial Guinea went into the lead in Sunday's showdown when loria Chinasa took advantage of some poor defensive work to head home from a corner kick in the 43rd minute.
Playing in front of 20 000 passionate home fans, the home team doubled its lead in the 66th minute when second half substitute Tiga Costa scored with her first touch of the ball.
Four minutes later, they were 3-0 up when midfielder and captain Genoveva Anonman made the South Africans pay for some sloppy defending.
In the 72nd minute, Chinasa scored her second goal of the title-deciding match. After a fine run on the left, she netted from a tight angle past the outstretched Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Thoko Mndaweni.
In a disappointing showing for South Africa, only captain and midfielder Amanda Dlamini looked the part on the biggest football stage in African women's football, with a solid display in her efforts to launch attacks on the Equatorial Guinea goal area.
While disappointed with the result, the outcome marks the end of a hectic and ultimately successful year for Banyana Banyana, which saw them in camp early in January in preparation for the London Olympics held in July.
The South African team will now wait patiently to see the result of their efforts at the African Women's Championship in the latest Fifa World Rankings. They travelled to Malabo ranked 56th in the world (up from 61st in July) and fourth in Africa (behind Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and All-Africa Games champions Cameroon).
In the playoff for third and fourth places, Cameroon outplayed Nigeria 1-0.