Captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams once again emerged as the hero as South Africa defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo 6-5 on penalties to claim third place in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Saturday.
Following a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes in Abidjan, Williams saved spot kicks from Chancel Mbemba and Meschack Elia to give Bafana Bafana bronze in the Ivory Coast.
Siyanda Xulu converted before Elia’s kick was saved, giving South Africa the decisive shootout lead.
Last weekend, Williams saved four shootout attempts to help South Africa defeat Cape Verde after a goalless quarter-final.
DR Congo will rue numerous missed opportunities during a tense match. South Africa has a perfect record in the third-place play-offs, having defeated Tunisia on penalties 24 years ago.
South Africa made three changes to the team that lost to Nigeria in a penalty shootout three days ago following an incident-filled semi-final.
Nkosinathi Sibisi, Thapelo Morena, and Mihlali Mayambela replaced Grant Kekana, who was suspended, and Mothobi Mvala and Percy Tau, both injured.
DR Congo retained only two of the side that lost to hosts Ivory Coast in the other semi-final — captain and centre-back Mbemba and midfielder Samuel Moutoussamy.
But eight of the nine who were dropped sat on the bench, leaving French coach Sebastien Desabre with multiple options should he wish to make changes.
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Although the Congolese had less of the ball in the opening half at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the Ivorian economic capital, they were the more threatening team in the attacking third.
Physically imposing Silas Mvumpa came close to breaking the deadlock after just eight minutes, but as he tried to round Williams in the area, the goalkeeper snatched the ball.
Simon Banza worked his way into a dangerous position close to the South African goal midway through the half, only to deliver a weak shot that posed no danger.
Despite some neat build-up play, it took South Africa 43 minutes to get a shot on target, and the effort from Mayambela went straight to goalkeeper Dimitry Bertaud.
As the match reached the midpoint of the second half, Congo continued to look the side more likely to break the deadlock.
When Williams fumbled the ball and lost possession, the ball went across the goalmouth and Silas fired wide when he should at least have hit the target.
So should Mbemba, who had ventured forward for a free-kick, but he blazed over when the ball fell invitingly into his path close to goal. Substitute Fiston Mayele also wasted a chance.
A captivating tournament concludes on Sunday in another Abidjan stadium with the Ivory Coast facing Nigeria in the final with a seven million dollar prize on the line.
The countries met at the group stage last month in the same venue and the Super Eagles won 1-0 thanks to a William Troost-Ekong penalty.