The clash saw Bafana Bafana lock horns with the Blue Sharks for the second time in the space of a week, and Stuart Baxter knew that the encounter was a must-win as Friday’s unfavourable result put the national team in a precarious situation.
Ahead of the clash, Baxter made wholesale changes to his starting XI. He relied on the experienced Morgan Gould to fill the void left by the suspended Eric Mathoho, while Wayne Sandilands took over the goalkeeping duties following Ronwen Williams less than convincing display in Praia.
Hlompho Kekana was also introduced as he partnered Dean Furman in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile, the visitors were looking for consistency as coach Lucio Antunes made only one change to his line-up.
A sparse crowd at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban were treated to a rather tentative opening half where both teams looked content to allow each other time on the ball.
The game’s first real chance on goal fell to Tokelo Rantie with eight minutes on the clock, but the South African striker was far too erratic as his shot went narrowly wide of the Cape Verde goal from close range.
Despite Bafana looking dominant, Cape Verde came close to opening the scoring with just 13 minutes played. Marco Soares lined up a free-kick from just outside the box and it went just wide of Sandilands’ goal.
Cape Verde were beginning to trouble the Bafana defence and Tiago Almeida nearly caught Sandilands napping minutes later, as his attempted cross went inches over the crossbar.
Bafana enjoyed their fair share of possession, but were let down by their final pass on several occasions.
With half-an-hour played, South Africa finally gave Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha something to do as Bradley Grobler leapt well to get his head onto a dangerous cross, but the 29-year-old’s header was easily dealt with by the keeper.
With time running out in the first half, Grobler once again found himself with an opportunity to break the deadlock, but this time his shot from an acute angle did little to trouble Vozinha. That was the last real chance of the half as both sides went into the break locked at 0-0.
The resumption of the second half saw Baxter hoping for an improved performance, but it was Cape Verde who would break the deadlock five minutes after the break.
A sensational free-kick from Garry Rodrigues sailed into the back of net, only compiling further misery on an already under-fire Bafana side.
At the other end, Grobler had yet another chance to score but his header from a Keagan Dolly free-kick was easily gathered by Josimar Dias Vozinha.
In an effort to rescue the game and South Africa’s 2018 World Cup hopes, Baxter threw on Lebogang Manyama just before the hour mark.
While the former Cape Town City attacker looked lively, Bafana left themselves exposed at the back and Ryan Mendes could have easily doubled Cape Verde’s advantage, but after creating space for himself, he sent him effort well wide of the target.
Nevertheless, Cape Verde would eventually find their second and completely silenced the Durban crowd in the 67th minute. It was Rodrigues again, who produced a touch of magic as his long-range effort beat the despairing Sandilands.
To South Africa’s credit, they were not giving up and Kekana saw a long-range effort of his own go narrowly wide. With time running out, the crowd were growing continuously frustrated and demanded the introduction of Percy Tau.
Although Baxter duly obliged, it was another substitute in Andile Jali , who gave Bafana a glimmer of hope in the 89th minute as he squeezed his effort past Dias.
Bafana valiantly went in search of the elusive equaliser, but it was too little too late, and at the death, Cape Verde had one last opportunity to restore their two-goal advantage, only for Sandilands to make a fine save.